Review: Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman

Review: Dreamwalker by C.S. Friedman
Dreamwalker
Genres: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publication date: February 4, 2014
by DAW

Format: Hardcover

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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.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

I do admit that I am a bit of a cover snob. I know that we should not judge a book by its cover (well, figuratively at least), but when it comes to novels, I do believe that first impressions are important to grab a reader’s attention. When I first saw Dreamwalkers’ cover, I was a bit wary at first because it seemed like it was about a girl who obtained some sort of X-Men-like superpower who then used it to save the world, which isn’t a bad of a premise but god knows how much I’m sick of it by now, and since I have never read the author’s previous works, I wasn’t sure I’d like it.

But then I realized it was about alternate realities, and when it comes to speculative fiction, there’s not much out there that can make my head turn and make me go, “OoooOOoooOOoohh, what do we have here? SHINY!!!!”

Here’s one thing for sure upon finishing this book, though: some aspects were amazing, and some were a little on the lackluster side.

First of all, let’s get to the positives: I do LOVE the writing. I have never read a C.S. Friedman book before, but after reading Dreamwalker, I will MAKE SURE to read her Coldfire Trilogy everyone is raving about. The writing here just felt so intimate and personal with Jesse’s personality oozing out from the very pages. It never felt so telling, it never felt so monotonous, and most of all, it never felt so pretentious. I’ve read a fair amount of books across many genres where yes, it is lyrical and oh-so-poetic, but it never felt genuine and real. This one never came across to me that way – even if it’s based on an impossible premise (in real life anyway), Jesse sounded like a teenager and a very effective one at that.

Plus, she has a very cool sense of humor. I remember chuckling every now and then!

If you’re the type of person who loves stories – science fiction or otherwise – that are driven by sibling love, then you might want to give this book a second look, because I feel like this is also an aspect that Dreamwalker did well. Jesse and Tommy are close siblings, but early in the book, they discover that Jesse’s DNA genes are neither compatible with their mother nor their father. But even if that is the case, it doesn’t stop them from rescuing one another, and it was admirable to see Jesse, from start to finish, so involved in rescuing her brother from a world not their own. You never see her stray from her goal, and you never see her gawking at guys, forgetting what she came there for, and it’s such an amazing thing to see.

So, you like good sibling relationship? One with such a great and strong bond between them? Yup, this is for you.

However, if you value world-building and a concrete, logical world more than anything else, you might want to hesitate for a second there, because this one… well, let’s just say it was very lacking in that particular department. I mean, it’s about alternate realities, but the structure of it all felt too simplistic and a bit too chaotic at once. There seemed to be so much going on behind the scenes – her being not her parent’s daughter gene-wise, her being a changeling, her having dreams, but it felt like these things were only talked about in passing. Then, there’s the matter of another world having Gifts and such and how her ability to have complex dreams is a “bad thing” and yet… we don’t really know what’s SO BAD about them, only that THEY NEED TO BE ERADICATED. And did I mention about this world having so many guilds and yet none of them were really fleshed out?

The thing is, this book tries to tackle a lot, but doesn’t really explain any in depth, resulting to a world-building that looks simpler than it should be.

There’s also the issue of the secondary characters – mainly Devon and Rita who accompany Jesse on her rescue mission – being very flat characters. In passing, we get the notion that they carry more on their shoulders than they let on, but I never felt that emotional attachment to them as Jesse never really interacts with them in a deeper manner, which is such a shame because I find them so interesting. Hopefully, hopefully, the next book will give them a chance to shine more.

That and the world-building.

All in all, this book is a high 3.5 stars. I really enjoyed the very personal narration as a whole, but because world-building is so important to me, because I don’t like plot holes and loose ends, I can’t find it within me to give this 4 stars or more. But be rest assured that I do recommend this any way because the narration makes it so worth it!

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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  1. says

    I’ve seen Friedman’s books, but was always on the fence on whether or not to give them a shot because the reviews have been pretty mixed. Except for the cover (ew), Dreamwalker sounds very interesting. I love sibling dynamics in books, so that kind of tickles my fancy ;D Great review!
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  2. says

    Yeah, the cover for this one isn’t the best but it does sound like this one is a bit of a gem inside. I like what you’ve said about the characters and plot but the lackluster world building and loose ends don’t sound all too fun. That being said, usually i can overlook those types of things if it’s a standalone.