Dreamwalker by Rhys Bowen and C.M. Broyles is the first in a new series touted as a fantasy that “fills the hole left by Harry Potter” as it has many similarities (think boarding school in the UK, magical powers, a main protagonist not knowing about magic at first, one big bad guy to battle, a castle, etc.). I can’t second that opinion – as the hole in my heart that Harry Potter left is too big for this book to even begin to fill. But, I will say it clearly aspires to be the latest Harry Potter.
Let’s start with the things that give this promise – promise that the series might one day be able to fill the hole that was left by the Harry Potter movies, even if it fails to ever come close to knocking JK’s world off the throne. The story itself, with the mirror world, and the magic that seems to come from within each character, seems to have promise. It is a different approach – saying that each person has a power but not all magical students (and not all students there are even magical) all aren’t able to conduct spells or attend classes for and learn transfiguration. The teachers are pretty clever. The use of modern technology to get Addy to the Red Dragon Academy was amusing (let’s face it we all know the frustration and annoyance of dealing with pop-ups on the computer screen). There were moments of genuine originality and playfulness. There is room for growth – especially since we don’t yet know what every one’s powers are. And, the satisfaction that I felt when reading the background that we get towards the end, was enough to ensure that I will definitely pick up the second installment. Without it, I am not sure I would have felt that I want to read the second book.
Why? Because there was great inconsistency. While I admire writers, and I admire teams of writers even more (because it is hard enough to get a story out of your brain and onto paper, it must be infinitely harder to manage to get the same story from a team), I also expect more from a team. This is because there is a second person to help spot the inconsistencies, the plot holes, etc. – well before an editor or read could. So, presumably, they can spot the issues an fix them pre-publication. But, I wonder exactly what the process was here – because the story and the writing itself felt choppy and inconsistent. And there were what felt like moments of brilliance, coupled with moments “been there, read that” (and not just in Harry Potter, although some of the similarities are really most striking when thinking of the boy-who-lived). There were times where it felt very well written with the grammar, sentence structure, and pacing all moved along perfectly. Then, wham! All of a sudden, it felt as if I was reading an entirely differently book. I don’t know if that is because the specific writer of the passages/chapters (whatever) changed, but it there was a stark contrast in writing from one section to the next.
It also took a little while for the authors to develop the narration by Addy, the main character, that wasn’t choppy and a little tough to read. Once that rhythm was found, things got easier and more pleasant to read. I would chalk it up to the initial world building and introductory work that all new series need to lay out, you know – the groundwork the rest of the series will built off of – but it was less like that and more like inexperienced writing.
While there are seven students, and that leaves so much room for development, it also felt a little too ambitious. As most of the seven students felt so peripheral that it was hard to care about them or pay much attention to them. They might as well have not been there, they get so little attention really. Hopefully, in the next books we will learn more about the others. Because they are set up as being integral to defeating “The One” but we really learned very little about them, and it was hard to really care about any of them as a result. Maybe narration by a different member of the seven would solve this (but please, no chapters alternating… there are too many characters for that; it works ok most of the time with 2 characters, but more that that…? Yikes!).
However, there were a number of satisfactory aspects. For example, the references to Welsh history were interesting. Frankly, I would have liked to see more (although I admit, I wouldn’t know it if it was made up history or real, since I know nothing about Welsh history) as I am guessing like most European countries, there is rich history from which to draw. I would love to know if any of the story pulls from Welsh mythology too….
There is so much room for growth in that we have apparently seven children with powers and only 2 of them have discovered their powers. And, clearly there is a big baddy that needs to be defeated and who knows how many installments it will take to defeat him. The fact that there is the possibility to introduce more dragons, in more than just a few flight scenes, is appealing (I am hoping that we will get more, I don’t know if we will or not, but doing so would add another wonderful element to the series).
There was action, magic, modern technology, dragons, magical mirrors, telepathy, adventure and more here. And, of course dargons. Every story is better with a little bit of dragons. I hope we seem more – and a little more consistency in the next installments. What is one of the best aspects – we get some much needed background and insight into the world the authors have built towards the end. I was glad I got there – since that helped tremendously. And made me realize that I do want to read the next book. So, here’s to more dragons and dreams!