Rating: 5/5 stars
Length: 288 pages
Series: The Dark Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1
Genres: Fantasy. Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal
Publication date: January 29, 2019
“Let me guess. You have a warrant out for your arrest,” I joked.
His smile was taut, his eyes following the flashing lights when they turned the corner and whizzed by the store. “Why? Are you into bad boys?”
I snorted. “In your dreams.”
His eyes flashed, the tiniest of true smiles breaking through. “Maybe in yours.” (Ch. 3)
For some reason, the song “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright played in my head the whole time I was reading this story. Hmm… I wonder why that could be…
This is my second read from Duell and I find she’s quickly becoming an author that I adore. The other book of hers that I’ve read, When Stars Are Bright, is one of my favourite retellings of all time. If you’re looking for an engaging read and a fulfilling story, I highly recommend checking out her works.
Okay, now for my thoughts on this fantastic story – Dream Keeper.
The dark vibe of this story had me hooked right away. While I’m not always the biggest fan of dark tales, it’s nice to take a break from upbeat stories every once in a while. When a story is as good as this one, I don’t miss the frills one bit. Inf act, Duell did such an amazing job with the story that I can’t wait to read more like it.
The gruesome death scenes in this story might not be for everyone, but if you can get over a little bit of gore, I’d highly recommend checking this story out. In my opinion, these deaths make the story feel more real and raw. It brings depth to the story that took the read to a whole other level. I adored it. I felt that these deaths were a valuable tool to keep the plot moving forward, not used as plot filled the way deaths are sometimes treated in stories. They weren’t needless deaths, and that’s what I liked so much about them.
I also really enjoyed the character development that went on in this world. We get to learn more about the Sandman and Nora along with what makes them tick. We get to see their fears being realized and the lengths that they’ll go to combat them. We get to see them facing the truth head on and doing what needs to be done.
Duell also did a fantastic job at bringing these worlds to life. While I exist in the real world, I was able to picture the Sandman’s beach as well as the nightmare world pretty well. Duell’s words brought this novel to life, and I got to exist in the world for a little while. Thankfully, I only existed there for a little while. I would’ve hated to be trapped in nightmares myself!
Coming out of this story, I find myself wanting more, and I’m so glad that this is the first book in the trilogy. I can’t wait to continue reading, to discover what else this world has to offer. I hope we get to find out more about the Sandman has he’s such an interesting character. I also hope that their relationship continues to blossom into something deeper. And I hope that Nora and the Sandman continue doing what needs to be done in order to come out triumphant.
Amber R. Duell is an award-winning young adult author, Navy wife, and mom of 2 awesome boys. She has been a #WriteMentor mentor since 2018 and is a co-host on the live broadcast show Young Adult Edition. Red Bull keeps her kicking.
While there’s a lot in this story that I could talk about, I want to leave most of it out there for people to discover on their own. I really enjoyed discovering all of the twists and turns in this story by myself, so I’d hate to – even accidentally and with warning – ruin these moments for anyone else. So here’s the least spoiler-y spoilers section I could write:
This story pulled me in right from the beginning. I felt for Nora, seeing a truth that no one around her believed. She gave up trying to tell those around her what she knew, but that only led to her mother taking her to be evaluated by psychiatrists. That certainly couldn’t have been an easy way to grow up. Yet she never fully believed that it was all in her head – and for a good reason. Sure the Sandman might be a hard pill to swallow in the real world, but Nora knew deep down that he was real and there for her through everything.
But when things start happening in the real world, the Sandman – as Ben – is right there for Nora. He knew that the Weaver was after her and was ready to do everything in his power to protect her from him. Sure things don’t go easy for them – and there might have been a couple of deaths – but he was there, even when Nora thought he wasn’t.
Overall, I fell in love with the way the two acted with each other. The Sandman might have known right away that he was in love with Nora, that she was it for him, but Nora took a little while to realize the truth. Sure she was seeing parallels between Ben and the Sandman, but she didn’t want to believe that her “imagination” was bleeding into reality. I can only imagine how tough it is to have to keep trying to convince yourself that you’re not crazy while you’re living a double life.
On a different note, the Weaver was quite the terrifying Big Bad. Whispering the truth in Nora’s ears right after he’d killed people – even when Nora didn’t know they were dead yet. Whispering what they’d seen in the nightmare that did it to them in the end. And that was only at the start of the novel!
I really did enjoy seeing the way that the worlds interacted with each other. While Ben was able to hide his true form from most humans, Nora saw right through it to the real him. Sure she thought that it was just her mind playing tricks on her, but I adored that she could see the real Sandman while everyone else just saw a handsome young man with clear skin and brown eyes. It was also adorable that he kept trying to pull his hood forward, to block himself from Nora’s seeing gaze.
Plus the way that the Nightmare world abutted the Sandman’s beach was intriguing. I adored the invisible walls, the barriers that he was constantly fighting to keep strong enough. To keep the darkness at bay. If that’s not a powerful mental image for how a lot of people try to cope – especially with everything that’s going on in the world right now – I don’t know what is.
I found it profoundly powerful that the Sandman was trying to hold out against the darkness, to be the more powerful of the two, while isolation is pushing on a lot of people right now. It’s hard for a lot of people to stay home all day, to not go out and spend time with others, and to only get to rely on themself (or their immediate families). Reading about how hard the Sandman was trying, the lengths he was willing to go through, gave me hope that everything is going to end up alright. It might just be wishful thinking on my part – and I certainly read a lot into the Sandman’s struggles – but I liked what I saw. I appreciate the fact that he never gave up, and will continue to see his fight as a touch of light in these dark times.