Dream Magic, by Joshua Kahn

Dream Magic, by Joshua Kahn (Disney-Hyperion, middle grade, April, 2017), continues the story begun by Shadow Magic (last year's winner for the Cybils  middle grade speculative fiction category, and a very good read indeed).  13-year old Lily, aka Lilith Shadow, Queen of Gehenna, faces a whole slew of challenges as she works toward the stability of her kingdom, and her own mastery of the magical powers of necromancy that are her birthright.  These are both formidable challenges--her people are being attacked by trolls, and foreign powers are threatening her, and she has no army to speak off, and magic is forbidden to females.  Thorn, now a squire, is willing to do what he can to help, but the problems are huge. 

And they get worse when Lily is attacked in her own castle by a sinister sorcerer known as the Dreamweaver, who has raised a plague of magical spiders who are ensnaring the people of Gehenna in a net of dreams.  Lily must enter the Dream world, and face her own dreams come true, and face as well the truth behind the Dreamweaver and the tragic history that has pushed him into evil.

So there are lots of difficult, unhappy, and tense moments; in fact, that's pretty much the story in a nutshell.  And so it wasn't to my personal taste, because I am too empathetic for my own good and don't like to be unhappy and tense on behalf of the characters for large numbers of pages.  And though it was interesting to see Lily's magic progressing, and she's a strong character with an interesting path toward consolidating her power in a world where the deck's stacked against her, I'd have liked more of Thorn....(again, perhaps, a personal preference for nature rooted magic over zombies, though the zombies here are quality zombies, with more character than most...)

I'm still happy to recommend the series to fantasy readers who want "real" fantasy, by which I mean fantasy set 100% in a fantasy world where the cultures and histories and backstories of place are integral to the particular adventures of hand.  There aren't so many of these in middle grade fantasy today*, and this is a good one.  Give these to young D. and D. players (who are more common than you might think!). 

*having made this statement, I feel obliged to check to see if it's true.  I found that I've read seven books/series that are fantasy not at all linked to our real world, out of about the c. 40 middle grade speculative fiction books/series I've read so far this year.  So pretty true, based on an admittedly limited sample (and skewed by a few weeks where I read mostly dystopian middle grade).  I think I'll return to this topic a the end of the year, because "what makes a fantasy world middle grade readers will love" is rather an interesting topic....Joshua Kahn's world building is exellent--though the action takes place in a smallish physical location, there's a sense of a big world out there with lots of history and lots more interesting magic to explore.

1 comment:

  1. Dream Magic seemed to hit that niche of reader who wants something a bit creepier. I really enjoy Thorn too and hope to see more of him in the next book.


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