I’ve often been fascinated with the idea of blending elements of science-fiction & fantasy together in one story, so when I read the synopsis for Laure Eve’s debut novel I was eager to nab a copy & see just how well two of my favourite genres could be interwoven.
Fearsome Dreamer takes place in a dark alternate Europe, where the mainland nations are mostly united as World, a dark, miserable land where most inhabitants dwell in a massive virtual online world known as Life. Across the sea from here, is the contrasting United Kingdom, in this world known as Angle Tar, a country where technology is all but shunned, & where witchcraft & superstition run day to day life. The story follows two individuals from both nations, both possessing a peculiar skill known as The Talent, allowing them to dream about other places in the world, even transporting themselves hundreds of miles with the right amount of practice. Vela Rue is an apprentice hedgewitch, in a small town in the countryside of Angle Tar, but she dreams of much bigger things in her life – dreams that often feel so jarringly real that she can’t ignore them. When a mysterious stranger arrives in the town & offers to help her train her dreams into something unbelievable, she jumps at the chance to leave her country life & head with him to University in the Capital city. White is a native of World, but despises his nation’s dependency on the online computer network Life. He dreams of fleeing to the mysteriously distant Angle Tar, using his strange power to vanish completely & starting a new life in a country free of Life. When his Talent attracts the attention of World’s authorities, White knows he only has a little time before his dreams of escape are crushed completely, so he takes the leap & teleports himself to Angle Tar. It’s not long before he’s recruited by the same mysterious man who took on Rue, the charming yet guarded Frith, who recognises that White posses the most potent jumping Talent he’s ever seen. But why does Frith have such a determination to recruit talented individuals? What lurks outside the castle in his dreams that makes him wake up in a cold, terrified sweat?
Fearsome Dreamer hooked me from the first page, with a combination of great writing & a darkly creative world that had me dying to know more. Rue’s dreamy character was immediately relatable to me (a hopeless daydreamer myself!), & her caring, heartfelt spirit really made helped me attach to her straight away, & care for her throughout. White’s guarded nature & slight traces of arrogance made him a bit of a harder character to get along with, but his strength of conviction, & his role as an amazingly talented outsider bring him into a more positive light – eventually allowing him to become genuinely sweet. My favourite character though, just has to be Frith. Witty, charming & casually mysterious, he manages to exude confidence whilst still being almost completely unknown to those around him, & he’s introduced whilst calmly dispatching a couple of would-be assassins, which just adds to his air of hidden secrets.
What really sparked my imagination in Fearsome Dreamer though was the concept of Life, the fully immersive virtual reality network that fills World, and the Avatars that inhabit the meetings Frith attends there. Ghost Girl is sinister & enticing, & her entire people – who stay shrouded by Avatars, refusing to interact in the real world – are so intriguing I was glued to any passages they appeared in. Combined with Frith’s strange, sinister dreams of something stalking him in a walled castle, the whole book is shrouded in tantalising mystery which is teased out in tiny fragments & subtle hints, as well as strange, shadowy dreams. The book is clearly the first part in a series, & as such it’s a slow starter, but that’s not a bad thing – It builds up the characters well, investing in them fully to create well rounded people for the reader to really root for. Many books skip this kind of development, leaving 2D characters in dramatic, perilous situations that the reader can’t feel anything for, because they just don’t care. Laure obviously wants readers to feel for her characters, & so she’s building the tension in this novel using mystery, no doubt to explode into some serious action in the next one, & I can’t wait to find out what’s lurking in this dark world she’s created!
I think Fearsome Dreamer’s setting is what really sank its claws into me, a combination of simple beauty without ambition & darkness without morals, and its two extremes that can’t possibly survive on their own, two worlds that need something from the other to really work – the ying & yang equivalent of society, & that bleak not-quite-utopia of World just really grabbed me.
Fearsome Dreamer is from the amazing new UKYA publisher Hot Key Books, a very exciting group publishing some superb novels for Teens & Young Adults.
As always, thanks for reading!