This is the third novel written by Isa Pearl Ritchie, and the first of what is due to be her new ‘Dreamweaver’ series.
The world-building is good; it’s always easier when much of the world is based on reality, but Ritchie’s capturing of the illusory nature of the Dreamrealm is full of possibility and danger in equal measure, and this Dreamrealm will only gain depth and richness as the series progresses.
The characterisation is also good; Ritchie’s empathy with the protagonist gives us a strong impression as to who Awa is, and identifies her ‘voice’ quite well. However, there are a couple of occasions when the language used seems not to be in character when compared to the rest of her lexicon, especially when Awa admits herself that she’s no good at school. The novel is written in the first person, so it is particularly important that the protagonist’s ‘voice’ is real in every sense – even (or more importantly) in her thoughts.
Ritchie says on her website that this series is being written for 8-14 year-olds (slightly wider than the usual Middle Grade 8-12); this is a very wide bracket at that age. I wonder if Ritchie has tempered some moments which otherwise may have had better impact, due to concern for the effect upon younger readers; conversely, older readers within that spectrum may have an issue with how ‘young’ the writing and protagonist are. Coupled with this, there are a few occasions when the book is overwritten with exposition or unnecessary explanation. Trust your audience; there is no reason that they should have everything explained to them. Indeed, withholding information and allowing the reader to come their own conclusions (rightly or wrongly) is an integral part of writing.
The author’s Sociology credentials are apparent. As someone with a highly developed sense of justice, it always pleases me to see these influences brought to bear on younger audiences, especially with regards to bigotry. However, and I know this is an emotive subject, stating that mispronouncing ‘Maori’ is a sign of racism feels like an oversimplification, and might be taking a hammer to some already fragile egos (though some of those egos could probably be due a hammering); mispronouncing ‘Maori’ probably is a sign of racism in Australasia, due to proximity and exposure, but on the other side of the world in Europe, and possibly the USA, too, this is more likely (I would hope) to be due to a lack of these things – I don’t even have the symbol available on this platform to write ‘Maori’ correctly (the ‘a’ with a line over the top). I do understand that I am writing from a position of privilege, albeit from an ally’s standpoint, and I am not making a judgement on what constitutes racism, rather a judgement on how the point is presented in this novel. Ritchie goes on later in the book to address racism in a much more mature and accessible way, via a discussion between three kids; if this maturity and accessibility are available, it is a much more effective way of communicating the point. I probably do unintentionally mispronounce ‘Maori’ – and would be happy to be taught the correct way – but I don’t pronounce Paris as ‘Pa-ree’, as the French do.
Despite my rambling thoughts, there is much to be enjoyed here; a world well built, predominantly solid characterisation, and a dreamworld which is only limited by the imagination of the author (and Ritchie has plenty of that).
I look forward to seeing how the rest of the series develops.
For the intended audience age of 8-14 years, I’d give it 3.5*
What if dreams are more real than waking life?
Life is already complicated enough for Awa Bryant when she starts having weird dreams – waking dreams – and strange coincidences start appearing in her real life.
She meets dreamcharmer, Veila, a quirky glowing creature who helps to guide Awa through the mysterious Dreamrealm.
At first the Dreamrealm is a glorious escape from Awa’s daily struggles but something is not right… Soon Awa discovers she has a bigger quest, and everything she cares about is at stake. Will she be brave enough to face her fears and save her friends?
I do not get paid for blog tours or reviews, and this is my honest feedback.