Oh. Oh. The first book of the year to suck me in completely, Dreamhunter: Book One of the Dreamhunter Duet was absorbing, intriguing, compelling and all the other good ‘ings’ you can think of.
Dreaming has become an industry in Southland (which is more or less like an early 20th century western city, except for the Place – more later), where people crowd into dream palaces and prominent dreamhunters like Grace Tiebold and Tziga Hame usher them into a vivid dream: “Dreams as full and physical as lived experiences – but in which people were never themselves, so that the timid could be brave, the infirm could be well, men could be women and women men, and the old could be young again.” But dreamhunting, while glamorous for some, is rife with difficulties. Dreamhunters take on a strange, kind of haggard look, “as though the distances into which they looked exhausted them, were full of terrible battles or tormenting mysteries”.
Laura is the only daughter of Tziga Hame, the first dreamhunter, the one who discovered the Place, where dreams can be caught by a select few, the dreamhunters. Laura and her cousin Rose (the daughter of Grace Tiebold) are about to turn 15, the age when youngsters can Try, that is, to see if they can cross over to the Place. Laura is destined for greatness, which her father and the reader know all too clearly, but she hides in the shadow of her feisty cousin. The story begins rather slowly – rather like waking up in the morning, things move slow and you’re a little disoriented, not sure where you are. As you settle into your routine, and into this land full of dreams, Dreamhunter picks up up the pace. Tziga Hame goes missing just as Laura and Rose are about to Try. And he’s caught up in some kind of something that is big and something that is dangerous, and Laura finds herself way in over her head as she tries to follow her father’s wishes. Unfortunately this was just part one of a two-parter, and when Dreamhunter ended, my instant reaction was to figure out where the second half of the series was available*.
Elizabeth Knox has created a complex, engrossing story, a little magical because of the dreaming but also very grounded due to the intrigue that surrounds the government, especially the Secretary of the Interior, as well as the Hame family and their magical songs. Laura is a great character – once she becomes her own self, that is. Her relationship with Rose is touching and lovely in a sisterly way. But the best part of the book is the dreaming, the dream sharing and the weirdness of the Place. What a strange and wondrous idea.
I picked this up for the Global Reading Challenge, for the Australasia (Oceania) segment.
* Someone else has checked it out!! GAAAHH….! So much for not thinking ahead….