I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith
on 6th October, 2015
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A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.
Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.
A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.
“At last, I think I grasp the message of last night’s dream. I belong to none of Barstadt’s worlds, and I’ll never inhabit any of them as fully as I want. Even in my own body, I’m an impostor.”
Dreamstrider offers an intriguing protagonist in Livia who, after years of being a drudge, a Tunnel-dweller, is taken in and schooled by a professor for her talents in dreamstriding. She is able to both walk dreamworlds and possess dreaming bodies. Her skills make her an invaluable asset for the Barstadt empire but her low origins will always create a barrier between her and the people among whom she moves.
When Livia and her partner come into possession of information regarding Nightmare, the enemy of the empire, things happen rapidly. Conspiracies are revealed, missions go awry, and the capital is invaded. Through these tumultuous events, Livia finds her limits and goes beyond them to a conclusion that is as startling as it is liberating.
In other words, I had a lot of fun reading about Livia, the Barstadt Empire, and the different people inhabiting the myriad worlds Smith has created for her world. As I said before, Livia is a compelling protagonist. In a society strictly structured by social class and status, Livia occupies a strange liminal space where she is not high society because of her origins but neither is she low society because of her role as a spy. Her formative years have shaped her into the person she is and though she does not have the stoicism that I call the Katniss-persona, there is an authenticity to her actions that relay the effort she makes to act in a way befitting the person she wants to be. She is not always strong and she is not without flaws but the fact that she is cognizant of her own self is very satisfying to read.
The narrative is strong though there were some holes in logic that gave me pause. The worldbuilding is especially superb and I enjoyed the different and multi-layered facets of both the physical world and the dream world. If I had any complaints, it would be about the romance but we all know that I’m very difficult to please where romance is concerned. I like that the representation is diverse and I enjoyed that pair’s relationship but the relationship between Brandt and Livia does lose me in the end. I found it rich in conflict initially and I thought it would be the first time we’d see a protagonist grow because of her love–there are some high hurdles to overcome after all but well, that didn’t happen.
The book is quick paced and readers will tear through the narrative to reach a satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed Dreamstrider and I liked the conclusions Livia reaches at the end. Her journey is as fascinating as is her growth. Recommended.