Livia is a Dreamstrider. She can take over people's bodies while they are dreaming. Or, something.... She's working for her government, the Barstadt Empire, to help determine if and when their enemies are going to attack and to help find a way to stop them.
Livia used to be a tunneler, a low class citizen that lives in poverty underground. She was saved by a professor who studies dreams because of her talent. The deity in this Empire is the Dreamer. Livia is devout; fervently praying to the Dreamer for his guidance. And the "devil" is the Nightmare. But supposedly the Nightmare no longer exists. Livia believes Nightmare is coming back, because she has encountered the Nightmares while she is dreamstriding. Or something...
The politics and the religion are intertwined. The whole Dreamstriding experience was confusing and I never really understood what was going on. There are a lot of characters introduced, but many are superficial. I couldn't sink my teeth into the magical lore of this world. And, one of my biggest problems with fantasies, things are sometimes resolved too easily by using magical elements.
The ending was confusing. I can't really say much without giving it away, but Livia figures something out, and I didn't understand how or why it "fixed" everything like it did. There is also a lot of verbose, flowery language that maybe was supposed to explain her revelation, but really didn't mean anything. The romance was the best part of the story, and that part I understood!
I didn't know any of the characters well enough to care about the outcome, with the exception of Livia. The explanations of the dream world and dreamstriding was unclear, and the rules seemed to keep changing. I never understood why priests can be in the dream world, but they aren't dreamstriders -- because they are priests? Or something... I can just keep on with my questions, but you get the idea. Dreamstrider was just really muddled for me. Kind of like this review.
I hate writing negative reviews. I respect authors, including Smith, because I certainly couldn't do any better. But I also think that when I have to read passages over and over, and try to make lists of places and characters and still don't fully understand what is going on, then I need to reveal my difficulties. I can't recommend this book, but I encourage you to look for other reviews that are more positive.
Published by Roaring Book Press, October 6, 2015
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
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