A little while ago, Laini Taylor wrote enthusiastically about Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006, 365 pp). Since I know and trust her opinions, I dutifully checked it out of the library, and enjoyed it very much.
Laura and Rose are cousins, raised like sisters on an island nation (vaguely New Zealand) off in the middle of nowhere, round about the early 1900s. Now that they have turned 15, they are eligible to try to cross into the Place, a dry, dead, realm of dust and ruins, that only a few can enter. In the Place, dreams can be caught, and shared with the sleep of others back in the real world. Crossing the boarder to hunt for dreams is a lucrative, but dangerous profession, as the lives of Rose's mother and Laura's father show. They are two of the first and greatest dream catchers, famous and wealthy. But Laura's father has learned things about the Place that have driven him to the brink of desperation, and he disappears the night before she is to try to enter it herself for the first time.
Laura passes through, leaving Rose behind. Nothing has changed in the place since her father's last visit--and Laura beings to dream the same dreams he had found there--nightmares that lead her to the dark secrets of Dreaming that corrupt members of the government are hiding. Laura, Rose, and Rose's father slowly begin to unravel the mystery of her father's disappearance, while Laura begins to learn that dreaming was not the only magical legacy her father left her. And at last Laura brings the dreams and the magic back with her, to challenge the real world...
I should have trusted Laini more, and had book 2 (Dreamquake) on hand, because just when things start reaching a boiling point, book 1 ends. And I didn't have book 2 yet bother bother.
And that's my main quibble with this book--I wouldn't have had it any shorter, but much of it does read like preamble to The Main Events, and so I think it might require a bit of patience for some readers. Adding to the preambe-lish feel were the numerous switches in points of view, that occasionally felt somewhat forced, in the author needing to share information sense. I myself, however, found dreamhunter Laura and school girl Rose such interesting characters, and the Place so compellingly creepy, that the only thing that required my patience was dealing pleasantly with interruptions. And now, of course, patiently waiting till I can get the second book.
This is one that I would recommend in particular to fans of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series, or Jenny Davidson's The Explosionist-- ie, people who like period fiction that is almost realistic but with a fantastical difference and mysterious circumstance, and which involves school girls/15 year old former school girls who have headed off into Adventures Lives.
Gwenda Bond, at Shaken and Stirred, wrote about these books back in August of 2007, in a bid to get them the attention she thought they deserved. I just checked--no one in the entire state has Dreamquake or Dreamhunter checked out of the library (except me). I don't really expect the people of Rhode Island to be reading reviews from 2007, but don't they read Laini's blog????