Author: Lindsay Smith (site)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Told: First Person (Livia), Past Tense
Content Rating: Up to Page 128: Teen (violence)
Format Read: ARC (author)
Find On: Goodreads
Purchase On: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.
Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.
A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.
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I did not finish this book. I stopped at Page 128.
I did not finish this book. I stopped at Page 128.
In a Sentence: An intriguing fantasy world and premise, but I couldn't connect with the writing, bring myself to like the main character, or find the interest to care about the story.
Before I started reviewing, not finishing books was a common occurrence - if at any time I lost interest in a story, I simply moved on to another. But I feel a true review should only be written for a fully read book, and since I started reviewing I have tried to persevere with books even when I don't fully connect with the story. However, every once in a while I come across a book that I simply cannot finish, and to my great disappointment this was one of them.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't find it in me to be interested in this book. While it possesses an unusual fantasy setting, a powered main character, and an intriguing premise - a trifecta that normally never fails to engage me - all three fell flat in the telling.
Setting: While the unusual fantasy setting seemed interesting and different, the description of it, as with the description of everything else, was for some reason extremely difficult for me to picture. This left me unable to immerse myself in the story, always an outsider looking down from the pages. Also, for such a fantastical and rather complicated setting, very little was detailed or explained, leaving what vague picture of the world I was able to cobble together with great gaping holes. With a world such as this one I craved description, but was never even remotely satisfied with what was given.
Character: A powered main character will always immediately snag my interest, but despite her power, for the life of me I could not stand Livia. Even though she was the only person who could do what she did, she was extremely self-disparaging and constantly feared that if she made even one little mistake they would send her back to the slums from whence they rescued her. Considering they had no one to replace her this seemed highly unlikely, but she still panicked with every step she took, always walking on eggshells. She didn't try to learn more, to be better - just wallowed in her ignorance and self-pity. I really tried to find something to like in her, but I finally reached the point where I just couldn't take her anymore.
Story: I have a soft spot for stories about dreamworlds, so I was on board with this book right away. Although honestly the intriguing premise was really nothing new, paired with the fantasy setting I thought it had promise. But no matter the intrigue Livia became entangled in or the close calls she had, I just couldn't find the interest to care about the story. When I finally gave up on the book, Livia and partner were scaling a building to break into an office for possibly vital information, but I'm sad to say I just didn't care enough to find out if they succeeded or not - or if Livia would ultimately succeed in saving her country by the end of the book. I felt no excitement, no thrill, and therefore no enthusiasm to see the story through.
Writing: Looking back now, I think it all really came down to the writing style. It was like the book and my brain were written with slightly different code and I couldn't process it properly, sending on slightly different wavelengths and I couldn't connect clearly. I tried so very hard to understand it anyway, but we simply weren't compatible.
Conclusion: If you're on the right wavelength, this book has an interesting premise and intriguing fantasy setting that might be worth a try, especially if you like dreamworlds. But for me there was too little description for such a fantastical world and I couldn't bring myself to like the main character or take interest in the story. As it stands right now, I sadly do not think I'll be giving this one another try.