In the world of FEARSOME DREAMER, England has become Angle Tar – a technophobic and fiercely independent country holding its own against the mass of other nations that is World. Rue is an apprenticed hedge witch in rural Angle Tar, but she knows she is destined for greater things. After being whisked off to the city by the enigmatic Frith, Rue becomes the student of White, a young Worlder with a Talent that is much in demand: White is no ordinary Dreamer – but then neither is Rue. Both can physically ‘jump’ to different places when they dream – and both have more power than they know.
Rue and White find themselves electrically attracted to each other – but who is the mysterious silver-eyed boy stalking Rue’s dreams? And why is he so interested in her relationship with White? Is Rue about to discover just how devastatingly real dreams can be…?
Fearsome Dreamer has been on my radar ever since I first learned it was to be published. I was lucky enough to grab a copy and get it signed by its author, Laure Eve, at WFC in Brighton last year, but as so many books that I got at WFC it landed on my TBR-pile, to remain there until this month. With the sequel The Illusionists out next month, I decided it was high time to finally read Fearsome Dreamer. And I’m glad I did. While Eve’s debut novel wasn’t perfect, its world-building was intriguing and its characters satisfyingly complex.
The main characters of the book are Rue and White. Both of them where complicated characters and not always easy to like. Rue’s need to tell herself that she’s special, and consequently better than others, became wearing quite quickly. Coupled with a teenager’s tendency to think she knows better than the rest of the world, it was a clearcut recipe for trouble in the offing. And trouble certainly finds Rue by the end of this first book. In the reverse, White starts out quite likeable. A traumatised young man, he flees the continent for Angle Tar and gets drafted into the school for the Talented run by Frith. His is the more traditional magic school narrative, at least until circumstances elevate him quite quickly to the position of teacher instead of student. And it is here that White becomes harder to sympathise with; he’s clueless on how to handle Rue as a student and how his treatment of her might be interpreted. And instead of talking about it, he hides behind a wall of hurt and anger, which serves to remind the reader that he is still a youth, despite being an old soul in some ways.
White and Rue’s friends and classmates reflect the class-based society of Angle Tar, which is divided by large gulfs between classes. Especially the differences between country-born Rue and some of her more high-born classmates are clearly depicted. The difference between life in the City of Parisette and life outside of it is huge, as well. At the start when Rue and White aren’t yet both at the University and Rue is still an apprentice to a hedge witch out in the country, it almost seems as if she lives in a different world. One that could almost be, but isn’t quite, a secondary fantasy world. And Angle Tar is again a world away from the rest of the planet, where countries have reformed into new nations such the UCRI, the Hispanic Federation, United Russian and Chinese Independents. But in Angle Tar they are just referred to as World. Life in World largely takes place in a virtual space appropriately called Life. This virtual space seems more real and is definitely more colourful than the physical version. Yet we see curiously little of it, something which I hope will be different in the second book. I also hope we’ll learn more about the mysterious organisation that is located in Castle, a secret meeting place where Frith travels regularly for meetings and where there seems to be a huge threat to humanity about to escape.
While I found the concepts and world building of Fearsome Dreamer fascinating, there were some elements that bothered me. The pacing feels off sometimes, with the build up for Rue’s leaving for the city taking a relatively long time and other events happening seemingly quite sudden. In addition, the apparent time shift between the two story lines, which only becomes clear once they join up at Parisette, felt abrupt as we miss a couple of months of White’s story time and the White Rue meets is a different White than the White the reader last sees at the end of the first part of the book. Lastly, and perhaps most bothersome to me, the fact that Rue doesn’t tell anyone about the silver-haired boy in her dreams. This drove me nuts, especially once I realised who he was. I dislike this trope, the one where people keep secrets for no good reason and get into trouble as a result, and while it was completely in character for Rue to keep this secret, I still wanted to shake it out of her.
Despite my qualms, I really enjoyed Fearsome Dreamer. The romance in the book is understated, yet palpable, and the focus is far more on the intricacies of the politicking between Angle Tar and World. I’m looking forward to learning more about the mysterious Castle and the menace it’s trying to defeat and to discovering whether Rue and White will ever learn their true feelings for one another. Fearsome Dreamer is an interesting debut and a fun read. I recommend you pick it up soon, as the sequel The Illusionists is out on August 7.