________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


Dreamquake. (Dreamhunter Duet, Book Two).

Elizabeth Knox.
Toronto, ON: Viking Canada/Penguin Group, 2007.
449 pp., cloth, $20.00.
ISBN 978-0-670-06432-8.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by Ronald Hore.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Uncorrected and Unpublished Proofs.


Grace walked along to the corner of the Terrace. She joined a young man who stood with his coat held up over his head as if it could protect him from anything that fell from above. He seemed to sense her approach. He turned and said, "Careful," and pointed at the tiles beneath her. Smoke seeped between the slabs, and Grace could feel heat through the thin soles of her dancing slippers. The man turned back to the balustrade, dropped his coat and pointed. Grace looked and saw what he was watching.

In the side street facing the State Library, the whole wall of the People’s Palace was ablaze. Smoke poured through every window, and fire through a good half dozen of them. A fire truck and water tender were in the street, and the cobbles were already submerged. The stream from one hose played in spurts on the building but reached only as far as the second story. The other hose was trained into the side entrance of the Palace. As Grace and the man watched, something moved or collapsed inside the building, and a gout of fire spat out the entrance. It swallowed the men holding the hose, then retreated again, leaving them rolling on the street, their uniforms and skin smoking.

Dreamquake is the second book in the series, concluding the tale started in Dreamhunter. The setting is a world very similar to our own, circa 1906, complete with stagecoaches and carriages, steam trains and early automobiles. There are subtle differences: there is the art of "Dreamhunting," where gifted individuals can share special dreams with their clients and guests, and there is the "Place," a part of the world that does not seem to be of the world and where the dreamhunters go to gather dreams.

     Readers follow the two girls from the first book, Laura, who is the main character, and Rose, her cousin. In this novel, they are 16-years-old and, in addition to the events in the book, going through all of the problems of growing up, including boys and school. Laura is a dreamhunter unsure of her future and dealing with her feelings about a boy three years older, Sandy Mason, also a dreamhunter. Laura also has to deal with the Golem she created out of sand, Nown, once her servant and now freed. Rose failed in her Try to become a dreamhunter and has been sent off to boarding school by her parents. Even though their paths have diverged somewhat and there is tension between them, the two young women are still close. They uncover a government plot and become entangled in the mystery of trying to uncover what is going on and then try to stop it before the entire country is affected. Much of the story is told through the dreams, and the reader may gain some insight into what is going on, but the author holds the mystery together right through to the end. All the characters from the first book carry forward to this portion of the story. One character who becomes more prominent in this book is Mamie Doran, the daughter of Cas Doran, the Secretary of the Interior. Readers get to see a different point of view from that of Rose and Laura as Mamie is befriended by Rose. Mamie is opinionated, direct, perhaps a bit lonely and living with a problem that Laura and Rose do not have, her weight. Cas Doran, Mamie’s father, may be involved in the government’s plans. If these problems are not enough, Laura wants to uncover what is behind the Place.

     The prose is stylish and weaves a picture of an early twentieth century culture, gentle yet with an underlying feel of menace. The characters are well-drawn, especially the two young women, Laura and Rose. Again, in this book, readers get the feeling that they are not in a clone of North America. The author is from New Zealand, and readers suspect that her homeland is the basis for the setting, with spending Christmas at the beach being one clue.

     The book is broken into seven sections: The Isle of the Temple, Foreigner’s North, Summer and Christmas, The Depot, The Gate, Epidemic Contentment, Lazarus Hame, plus Epilogue and Glossary. The seven page Glossary explains several terms used in the story that would be familiar to readers of the first book, and it is especially useful for someone who has not read the first volume or who has forgotten the terms. As well as the Glossary, the book opens with six pages of sketch maps that help to put the locations in perspective. Each section is broken down further into chapters which make the book, at a total of 449 pages, an easy volume to read or set down at bedtime.

     While the publisher indicates that the series is suitable for readers aged 12 and up, I rated it for older students. This volume contains intense scenes such as dreams of being buried alive and the scene of the burning building, not to mention the normal problems of maturing from giddy school girls to young women. This is a fantasy story built around an interesting and unusual premise that may appeal to some readers who are no longer in school.

Highly Recommended.

Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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