Review: Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman

February 14, 2014 3.5 stars, Book Review 6 ★★★½

Dreamwalker

All her life Jessica Drake has dreamed of other worlds, some of them similar to her own, others disturbingly alien. She never shares the details with anyone, save her younger brother Tommy, a compulsive gamer who incorporates some aspects of Jessica’s dreams into his games. But now someone is asking about those dreams…and about her. A strange woman has been watching her house. A visitor to her school attempts to take possession of her dream-inspired artwork.

Why?

As she begins to search for answers it becomes clear that whoever is watching her does not want her to learn the truth. One night her house catches on fire, and when the smoke clears she discovers that her brother has been kidnapped. She must figure out what is going on, and quickly, if she and her family are to be safe.

Following clues left behind on Tommy’s computer, determined to find her brother and bring him home safely, Jessica and two of her friends are about to embark on a journey that will test their spirits and their courage to the breaking point, as they must leave their own world behind and confront the source of Earth’s darkest legends – as well as the terrifying truth of their own secret heritage.

Dreamwalker is the start of a new series with a very fascinating take on alternate realities. In a way I would consider this a blend of both fantasy and science fiction. Things seem magical and yet light scientific explanations are given as to the reasoning to help take away some of that mysticism. It worked nicely so you had that ingrained natural tendency from me as a reader to be more accepting of the elements that I would otherwise in a strictly science fiction book would have been wanting more explanation.

I find it easier for this book to break it down by what I saw as its strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:

  • – Alternate worlds / realities! The worldbuilding of one in particular that the bulk of Dreamwalker takes place in is fascinating. How that world elates to the others, or really in actuality dominates the other worlds was just so cool. This world is pretty much the world that these people consider Prime – and so they go into the other realities and take what they want, technology, people, resources. There is however a checks and balance system in place and they must work within those guidelines. Because of this the author was able to weave into her story our own myths and legends of changelings, people showing up in times they don’t belong, or people disappearing and reappearing years after they disappeared thinking no time had passed. This was the leading reason that I enjoyed Dreamwalker.
  • – There was a very well executed blend of both fantasy and science fiction. Things we would see as fantasy would then lightly be given a somewhat scientific explanation – not too much of a one mind you because then that would be stepping more firmly into the realm of science fiction. But just enough that it straddled both genres.
  • – There was an easy reading flow that quickly moved me from one scene to the next. This is typical young adult fair in that I would believe the author was writing to accommodate the young adult audience. Most of the narrative was from Jesse’s perspective and so the dialogue and observations were fitting. There were a few chapters that were not from her perspective.
  • – I enjoyed the addition of Jesse’s brother, Tommy’s perspective. He had some spunk and I readily identified with him, heck in some ways I wished he would have been the main character since I definitely preferred him. Maybe its the video game and fantasy geek in me that just bonded with his personality since we have so much in common.

Weaknesses:

  • – I really groan when this happens to me because I can rarely figure out the reason for it. With that said I really didn’t care for the main character Jesse. I was never able to adequately attach to her and a few times found her mildly annoying. This was usually when it came to her views on family. I don’t think her views themselves were annoying, indeed they were quite admirable. What I found off putting was she had this mindset like her views of family were right and that everyone would feel the same way that she does, and woe be to them if they weren’t and she would of course properly educate them. No I’m sorry not everyone would cross worlds and put themselves in jeopardy for a family member, some people’s families suck, with her family history you’d think she would kind of know or see this?! Frankly, not everyone has that same level of love for their family and this just rankled me.
  • – The additional side characters were not given enough personality or presence of character for them to adequately stand out as true parts of the story. They did not feel like real people rather more like extras in a film. Due to this I didn’t care what happened to them and really nothing they did felt important to me, nor did I feel any sympathy over their fates. Does that make me cruel or was it my subconscious telling me, hey these aren’t real people?
  • – There were a few plot points that either didn’t make sense or felt like some information was missing. I really don’t want to point out more than one, because of spoilers but this one is mentioned in the book description so I think it’s ok. Jesse grabs her brother Tommy’s laptop when she is escaping the house (that’s on fire mind you) – I just don’t think this is a realistic action at all.
  • – The title, Dreamwalker, so that is what Jesse is but ultimately that really isn’t gone into enough. I thought it would be more about her and her abilities. But for the most part the gifts various people have aren’t gone into as heavily as I thought they would be. This might have served better as the title for a forthcoming book, if thats when things about her abilities are revealed.

Ultimately, Dreamwalker definitely was an enjoyable read. Once I got going I finished the bulk of it in one day – so it made for quick reading. There are a lot of things that I know or hope will be coming in future volumes and I look forward to seeing where things go. Dreamwalker definitely falls into the category of books that I anticipate forthcoming volumes being stronger than the first.

Dreamwalker (Dreamwalker #1)

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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6 Responses to “Review: Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman”

  1. Mogsy

    This one feels YA for me, even though I don’t know if it has been marketed as such, exactly. I think some of the weaknesses you mentioned are quite common especially when it comes to authors who are moving from one genre to another, and I know Friedman’s more known for her epic fantasy, so maybe she’s still trying to strike the right balance. Anyway, I liked this one, it had its flaws but I love reads that are like this: quick, fun and light 🙂
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Redemption in Indigo by Karen LordMy Profile

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      For sure it’s definitely YA. I don’t know if it was marketed that way either but it’s very obviously YA all the darn main characters were. I didn’t even realize it was going to be when I snagged it. I thought it would be one of those ones that just had a young protagonist.

      I did like it and would be interested in reading more too =)

  2. Anya

    I hear ya about Jesse, I had trouble connecting too. I figure that there is definitely something missing even if you can’t put your finger on it. I think it’s partially that she’s just kind of flat, we don’t get a good idea of who she really is.

    Also so agreed about the title! I’m rather annoyed that we still know so little about Jesse’s abilities… Sure we’ll find out more later in the series, but I really don’t think that is an excuse to skimp in the first book.
    Anya recently posted…Sci-fi and Fantasy Friday {SF/F Reviews and Giveaways}My Profile

    • Tabitha the Pabkins

      I agree, other than the few things that prickled me about her I couldn’t explain why else I didn’t connect with her. Especially since hey shes and artist and I thought that was cool. But I connected more with her little brother!

      There absolutely needed to be more about Dreamwalkers.