Kassa's Reviews > Dreamlands

Dreamlands by Felicitas Ivey
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Oct 17, 09

This debut novel from a new author is a stunning piece of work. Intricately plotted with fascinating world building and creative characters, this story captures interest immediately and carries it through to the end. This is one of the better written books in the genre, offering a look at ancient Japan and all its wonder and glory. Unfortunately the book does try too hard in places and jumps into the action so fast there is a continual low level of confusion and muddled detail. However, the world building and fast paced story mostly makes up for this and the result is a solid, riveting tale.

The story is told from three different first person points of views and two different worlds. The first world depicted is Boston, however there is no time reference given. It could be modern day or it could be futuristic but there is no additional detail, which is an unfortunate flaw. The second world is the Dreamlands, which is a mirror for ancient Japan but incredibly vast and filled with beings. There are portals that can be opened through a variety of dark magical ways, leading between the two worlds. The story opens when one such portal has been created to allow monsters to infiltrate an underground bunker for an international organization based in Boston. This organization is very classic government, killing evil monsters under a guise of troubleshooting. In the chaos of this attack one of the prisoners ~ a young, computer hacker named Keno ~ goes missing.

Keno has been taken to the Dreamlands to be given as a present to a powerful demon there, Samojirou. Unfortunately the organization is not ready to let Keno and the monsters go, thus starting the action and complexity of the story. Told from Keno, Samojirou, and Mason’s perspective, the story follows the action as the government organization seeks to recapture Keno and destroy the monsters while Keno is learning that not all monsters are evil. Alongside this is an incredibly complex plot regarding Samojirou’s past and his life before and after arriving in the Dreamlands, a past which has serious implications involving Keno.

The plot itself is very complicated and contains several important subplots happening simultaneously. For the most part, the deft writing keeps each storyline moving and without too much confusion but the sheer volume of information presented is overwhelming. The intricate customs of ancient Japan from the manners to political structure are fascinating and well depicted but muddled by the somewhat confusing storyline of Fuse and her sons. While this information is important to Samojirou’s past, the high level of involvement of Fuse and her sons is repetitious and distracting. Adding to that are the numerous names of the various men, which blend together indiscriminately at that point.

The world building itself is stunning with the level of minute detail regarding ancient Japan. Unfortunately that same level of detail is sacrificed in the Boston world, where several inconsistencies are present showing that the main focus and effort was put into the world of the Dreamlands. Since most of the action does happen in that world, it’s not to the detriment of the story but shows the unevenness of the world building. However, the level of research and complexity involved is incredible and worth reading for alone.

The cast of characters is rather large from the important and well crafted men and women from the Dreamlands such as Keno, Samojirou, Fuse, Tamazusa, to the muddled, stereotypical Boston cast. Even Mason, one of the muscle bound trouble shooters who has a soft spot for Keno, is without much depth and predictable. This dichotomy is very interesting and serves to heighten the differences between the two cultures. Although the Dreamlands are filled with monsters, demons, and non living, non human beings – they are showed to have more depth, more culture, more breeding, and more intelligence than the one dimensional and predictable actions of every member of the “real world.”

This plays into the problem with Mason as a narrator. Although his voice is entertaining and enjoyable, there are too many scenes from his perspective and actually slow down the pace of the book and its interest. The most interesting and well written parts are those from the Dreamlands from Keno or Samojirou’s point of view, thus when the perspective shifts to Mason and the real world cast actions and manipulations, this eventually starts to bore and grate. The lack of interest and originality in these characters creates very little interest in their action. From the racist comments of numerous members to the predictably evil actions of the leaders and even Mason’s irreverent constant commentary offer little imagination and creativity to what is otherwise a wildly interesting and riveting tale. This had me hoping the narrative would quickly move from Mason and the predictable actions of the organization to the more interesting reactions of the Dreamlands inhabitants. Even the somewhat confusing and muddled family of Fuse is better written.

Overall this is a wonderful story with the coming of age for Keno and his slow acceptance of his chosen world. The Dreamlands world and inhabitants steal the book with a vibrant energy and stunning beauty that more than overshadows the weaker aspects of the real world organization in Boston. There are minor missteps in the writing such as confusing action and inconsistent detail, but these are minor in the face of the Dreamlands wonderful world building and creativity. I doubt many readers will be bothered by the bland, predictable real world villains and it’s easy to overlook those issues to continue with a fascinating story. I really enjoyed reading this story and can’t wait for more ingenuity from this new author.
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