August 9, 2013

Review: Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox
Series: Dreamhunter Duet, #2
Published: 2007, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover, 449 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Borrowed from library
Contains spoilers for Dreamhunter (my review)
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St. Lazarus's Eve at the Rainbow Opera dream house ended in chaos when, at the behest of her deceased father's wishes, dreamhunter Laura Hame overrode the peaceful Homecoming dream that patrons expected to receive with another one, a nightmare dream that the government uses to control the country's convict workers. For her own protection, Laura is forced to leave rather abruptly with her golem Nown while the dreamhunters remaining in the the capital are sequestered away so that they cannot accidentally spread the dream to any more innocent people. For the first time, dreamhunters find themselves the subjects of fear and suspicion.

But dreamhunters are not the enemy the people should fear. Dreamhunters primarily use their talents to serve the needs of their communities and are found to be ultimately the pawns of the government. Once again separated, Laura and Rose both begin to uncover secrets and conspiracies far greater than they could have imagined, and all of them seem to hinge on the purpose of the Place itself.

There's a lot to unpack in Dreamquake, perhaps even more than there is in Dreamhunter. As this is a sequel, the worldbuilding is fairly well-established by the start of this book, as are the majority of characters and their motivations. It is here, however, in the second and final book of the Dreamhunter Duet, that Knox expands upon the mythology and culture she has created to an awe-inspiring degree. Indeed, Knox's impressive storytelling here ended up earning her a Printz Honor.

Once again, what I had hoped would be a highlight of this novel Rose and Laura's relationship is present primarily through their absence from one another. Together and apart, however, the two still end up bringing out the best in each another, but circumstances and other relationships continue to get between them. Both girls have to struggle with the unexpected curves that life throws at them, mainly being that Laura is a dreamhunter and Rose is not one. While Laura seeks out the truth about the Place from inside of the Place, Rose's research is done through books and through other companions. 

Although I did like both of them, I found Rose to be more relatable and a stronger character overall. From the beginning Laura and Rose have two very different roles to fill, one as the traditional "chosen" one heroine and one coping with the knowledge that she is not. While the "chosen one" trope will always be close to my heart, I found Rose's struggles to be more realistic. I also appreciated the flipped perspective she provided. I liked Laura, but she's rather bland and is easily swayed by needs and instructions of others. In fact, in some ways the book's ending effectively shows her lack of agency by making certain "choices" we as readers think she have as quite impossible. I'm being cryptic here because I don't want to spoil the ending itself. Suffice it to say that while I do admire both heroines, I connected better with Rose. 

As with Dreamhunter, Dreamquake suffers from a bit of a sensory overload. It's clear that Knox has meticulously planned out every aspect of this world, but at times the attention to detail felt overwhelming. Not only do Laura and Rose learn more about their family histories, the history of the Place, and the physical presence of the Place, but here Knox adds in a hefty amount of political intrigue. Now to be perfectly clear here: I love political intrigue. Give me a fantasy story with some political intrigue and I'm all over it. The political intrigue in Dreamquake felt a little different, however, in its execution. The practically omniscient third-person narration enables readers to find out all the ambitions and alliances that exist between characters, but for many of the minor characters I had difficulty actually caring. Between the heavy emphasis on worldbuilding and political intrigue involving many characters I had difficulty caring about, in some parts my reading slowed down. But I really appreciated how focused Knox was on her world, and just how fully fleshed-out it is. There's a saying that the devil is in the details; reading the Dreamhunter Duet made me believe that Knox is a big proponent of this mentality.

By the end of Dreamquake, I found that the story's conclusion posed as many new questions as it answered lingering ones. An inconvenient result of such an expanded worldview, I think; so many little questions were already brought up over the course of the novel that not all could possibly be answered. Add to that a grand explanation about what the Place is and how it came into existence that, while fascinating and philosophical, ended up leaving me with even more questions before. If any part of this book could have benefited from extra details, it would have been the ending.

I do think that Dreamhunter is the stronger book in this duology, but Dreamquake is a worthy continuation. I am thoroughly impressed with the world that Knox has created and appreciated this highly cerebral read. I stand by what I said in my review of Dreamhunter: this is not a series for everyone, but for those interested in this type of book, it's well worth the effort.

Rating: 3 stars 
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Sounds like the author was careful to share lots of details, but maybe more than the reader needed to know. I hadn't heard of this series. Thanks for the review.

    1. Perhaps. I'm hesitant to outright state it, because it's very possible that there are many things that just went over my head in this first reading too. This is definitely a series that I can see benefiting from re-reads. But it's worth the effort, in my opinion. Thank you!

  2. I've only read this author's Mortal Fire, but it was pretty evident from that book too that Knox has a talent for world-building. The detail is impressive, but I agree, it can definitely be quite overwhelming at times too. I'm really curious about this duology though. Even if you didn't think Dreamquake was as quite strong as the first, I'm glad you liked it overall. Lovely review! :)

    1. I remember seeing reviews for Mortal Fire - I'll have to read that eventually. And if you enjoyed Mortal Fire at all, I'd encourage you to give this duet a chance. So fascinating. And me too. Thanks, Sam!

  3. How funny -- I just posted something about a half-hour ago in which I mentioned these books and said that I didn't know anyone else who'd read them! I really enjoyed the world-building here. Such a unique concept! Especially the idea of dreams used as punishments -- how crazy and scary is that? I really enjoyed these books, and felt like they were really mind-bending. Glad to see your review!


    1. Oh really? That is quite the coincidence! And I know. Normal nightmares are scary enough - and think of the poor dreamhunters who are forced to carry those horrific dreams. If I was in that world, I'm not sure I would have wanted to be a dreamhunter, to be honest. I'm glad to find another fan of this duet. :)


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