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Dreamstrider

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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.

394 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2015

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About the author

Lindsay Smith

45 books439 followers
Lindsay is the author of multiple novels for young adults, including Sekret and A Darkly Beating Heart, as well as the comic series Black Swan. She is the showrunner and lead writer for Serial Box's The Witch Who Came In From the Cold, a Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 2017. Her short stories and comics have appeared in the anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats, Strange Romance Vol. 3, and Toil & Trouble and on Tor.com. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and dog.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 182 reviews
Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
August 23, 2015
I think I read this book in a span of two days. TWO DAYS! In a book nerd's dictionary, that's pretty much a synonym for "SO KICK-ASS I FLEW THROUGH THE PAGES", and no, it's not just because of the cover, which I agree is absolutely mesmerizing. To be honest, this is my first book by this author (I had wanted to read SEKRET before, but I haven't gotten the chance to buy it yet... a travesty, I know, don't remind me), so I didn't know what quite to expect. Would it be purple-prose-y? Would it be underwhelming? Would it have a main character who would make me want to put them into sandwiches so I can eat them to oblivion? Okay, that probably didn't make sense. I'm so not funny.

The opposite actually happened.

I wanted to hug and love the heroine because she was so flawed, and thus, perfect.

Are you tired of special snowflakes? Are you tired of reading about heroes and heroines who are chosen by someone (or something?!?!) to wield a special power, and then be exceptionally good at it despite lacking the necessary training and experience? Are you just exhausted of these individuals who seem to solve problems left and right without seemingly lifting a finger? Are you weary of these characters who are so flawless and loved by everyone, and you're like, "THIS IS INSANITY!"

Meet Livia, a girl who grew up as a Tunneler - a person from the poorer, more dangerous side of the Kingdom. Her childhood consisted of a mother who was too high on a dreamless-inducing drug to care for her, of years crawling and struggling to survive, of dreaming of a better life. One day, she met Professor Hesse, who introduced her to the world of dreams, Oneiros, who she could be whoever she wanted to be, where she could go wherever she wanted to go. However, it turned out the Professor had other plans for her... in exchange for giving her the chance to buy her freedom, she would be doing something for the Ministry: dreamstriding, the ability to enter the body of another person through the dreamland, the ultimate form of espionage.

First of all, Livia is such an amazing heroine to read. Usually, when you have a premise that's pretty much about government conspiracies and political espionage, the hero or the heroine is the star of the team and has swag and confidence and pretty much everything. Clumsy spies are oftentimes skipped in lieu of these individuals who can charm the reader with their smiles and swagger, but Livia has none of that. She is clumsy, error-prone, and insecure; there are people who hate the very sight of her because of her mistakes, and the people who hired her in the first place are not always confident of her abilities, but are forced to use her anyway because there is no one else with the same abilities.

And I just love reading about her narration and her ways of coping with her frustrations. Her POV is definitely vivid and personal and real - when she is the dreamworld, and when she is in the real world. I love how she felt at ease in Oneiros - her love for flying over places, of being able to enter a whole new world, and being closer to the Dreamer. I also felt scared for her when she was in the Nightmare Wastes, a place in the dreamworld where a lost soul can find itself getting lost in, forever trapped in the hellish abyss. Just the descriptions of what she felt by being in the vicinity of the being that kept making her demotivated and sending her malicious thoughts... I get the chills, dude. I also love how even though she wasn't the brightest or the most confident person around, she didn't let other people push her around. They were her demons to face, but she'd try to get the job done... scrapes and bruises and hurt egos and all.

I also love how this book wasn't romance-centric at all. Yes, we do get the "I love yous" here and the kind of kisses that would make you go, "YAAAASSS!" but it never took center stage. Livia never pushed her feelings to someone else, never forced them at all. I love that at the end of the day, we got a more personal and intimate look into her character development first - how from someone who felt so small and useless, she transformed into someone who became a stronger and confident person, driven by her need to protect those who are dear to her, even if it meant putting her life on the line. Plus, the fact that there are queer girls? YAHOO!

I do wish that there's more world-building, though. I do agree that the writing sets up the atmosphere really, really nicely. The writing has this surreal aura that really makes you feel that you are in the dream. The descriptions are amazing, and the feelings of the main character are well-written - the kind that would pull your heartstrings because you just feel what she is feeling. But I wish we got a better picture of the Kingdom's society and their norms and their culture. Like, there are supposedly High Priests, but information about them is really scarce, and I wanted to know more about their roles in the grander scheme of things... the Emperor, too, and even the neighboring countries. That's just me, though - because I always want my fantasies to be very, very immersive. I also wish that Livia's backstory is more shown... we never really get to see more intimately how she coped when she was younger. I know that she pretty much crawled through mud in order to survive and her mother was next to useless, but other than that, her past feels quite detached.

Other than those complaints, though, this book is très fantastique! I love the details of character's observations of her surroundings and her internal feelings, her believable journey to become a better and stronger person, and how dreams were used in order to achieve higher agendas and goals. Everything feels so real and vibrant and bright and terrifying, here. Plus, did I mention the very non-special snowflake character? ;)
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
October 24, 2015
"Hi! I'm Livia. I'm the dreamstrider - the one and only known person in the world who can travel through the dreamworld into another person's body, controlling their actions and seeing their hidden thoughts. But although I'm so very extra-special, it has never occurred to me that I'm in a position to demand pretty much whatever I want in return for my work as a spy. Nope, instead I'm going to splash my low self-esteem over every single page in this book, moaning about how I'm just not good enough and I don't really 'deserve' anything."

Admittedly, there's a reason given for Livia's issues - she's a member of the literal underclass in this country, the 'tunnelers'. She's been brought up to think of herself as not worth much. However, having to listen to her whining throughout this book was unspeakably tedious.

The matter wasn't helped by the other characters' behavior and interactions, either. Every single person in this book acts like they're in some kind of middle-school drama, letting petty emotions overtake them in the middle of serious situations, bursting into confessions for no particular reason, clamming up about other things that could really stand to be spoken, playing social games instead of communicating like adults. The characters even refer to each other as "boys" and (I think) "girls" rather than men and women, although they are all of age. "YA" doesn't mean "all the characters have to behave with absurd immaturity!"

I haven't read a lot of books with this specific failing, but I suspect there are a lot of them. I've gleaned this pretty much just from following Khanh's (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4...) reviews here on Goodreads. If so, I think it's a really horrible trend. Even when I was a kid, I didn't want to read a book where spies acted like members of the cattiest and stupidest cliques at school - I wanted to read a book to imagine spies being brilliant, devious and bad-ass, and to get AWAY from all that stupid crap.

On top of this, there's an annoying love triangle (this is a very (too) romance-y book - and it's one of those no-sex romances, too); there's a grand finale that turns into a religious allegory with a preachy self-help message AND magical bits that come out of nowhere and make little sense in the context of what's happened earlier. There's also a major opportunity missed in that what Livia is doing in her spycraft is a serious, rape-like violation of extremely questionable ethics - even if it is targeting people who are planning on invading her country. I would've liked a bit of wrestling with that dilemma, at least. Oh, and did I mention our main character moaning about just not being good enough, even AFTER she's saved the world?

OK, I've just done a lot of bitching about this book. Maybe too much. Because: I liked the world. I liked the set-up. I liked the STORY. I liked the portrayal of Barstadt, with its jeweled aristocrats, its oppressed undercaste, its overweening religiosity. I liked seeing Barstadt through the eyes of foreigners with a different culture, as well. I liked the plots and the spying. I liked the whole concept of the dream world, and I loved how Livia's talent isn't something that comes easily. I could've done without the "collect the lost magical thingies" bit of the plot, which has been done to death (these were particularly horcrux-ish), but I didn't even really mind it.

I just wished the whole treatment had been different. You know those cartoons and such where they take characters from a drama and make them into children to be cutesy? Like this: I feel like I just watched 'Star Wars' with those characters, and I just want to watch the regular 'Star Wars.' Because there's a good story in this book.

Many thanks to Roaring Brook Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. Al always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
August 27, 2015
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

What I Liked:

I enjoyed this book, much more than I (collectively) enjoyed Sekret and Skandal! I had seen some bloggers read Dreamstrider very far in advance (I'm only a little over a month ahead!), and they were having difficulty getting into the story, or couldn't get into it at all, or were very confused throughout the novel. I personally did not have any of these issues! This could be for a number of reasons, but meh, I liked this book.

Livia is a dreamstrider, and the only one to exist. She was taught how to be one, by a professor who has theorems and experiments in the dreamworld. Livia is not a perfect dreamstrider, and often struggles with her ability. But the Ministry pulled her out of the life of a tunneler, and she is determined to prove herself to the Minister and the operatives she works with. Her best friend Brandt is an operative, and he believes in her ability, mission after mission. But Nightmare is creeping into the dreamworld, and a scheme against the Empire could lead to ruin. What to do, who to trust - more is in Livia's hands than she thinks.

I absolutely LOVE how the author creates Livia as a character. Livia does not see herself as a successful, competent dreamstrider. Granted, she is the only one out there, the only successful pupil of Professor Hesse, but she does not think she is good enough. One particular mission is hinted at, time after time, without specific details, and apparently Livia messed up in that one. We get the details of that mission in full later in the book.

Anyway. I like that the author has Livia as a bit of a timid character. Not timid, but unsure of her abilities. She knows she isn't a superhero, despite having a power that no one else has. She isn't confident in her abilities, and does not want to jeopardize anyone or any other mission. Livia is desperate to prove herself, but does not want to fail. I like her! She is very clever, and very dedicated. She does as she is asked of the Minister of Barstadt, and she tries her best.

The secondary characters are an interesting bunch. Brandt is Livia's friend, an operative of the Ministry, and a lord. He is set to inherit House Strassbourg, and as a lord, he must keep up with the nobility, as in balls and marriage and securing power. He is slowly distancing himself from Livia, and not intentionally. Livia has been in love with him since she came to the Ministry, but perhaps it's time to move on. And then there is Edina, an operative, Brandt's fiancee. And Vera, an operative, and someone who antagonizes everyone. Jorn, a former tunneler who is a sort of bodyguard to Livia. It is a lively group of young adults, all unique and crazy in their own way.

I didn't find the story too confusing, though I can see how others would get confused. Everything is NOT revealed upfront, and there are things that are hinted at, but not fully explained. Those same things are explained towards the climax. But for a good portion of the story, you're wondering what Livia is referencing. I didn't find this confusing, because I had a feeling the author would explain these backstory references, as they seemed very important.

So I personally enjoyed the ride. This book is all about spies, and spying on the enemy to see when and how they will attack the Empire. The plot to overthrow the Empire is much more complicated than any of the operatives could have planned. It heavily involves Livia and dreamstriding. The dreamstriding ability is very cool! Basically, Livia can enter the body of a sleeping individual, and take control. This isn't an entirely new concept to YA literature, but still, I liked Smith's take on it.

I will touch on the setting briefly - I love the world-building! It seems like a historical world, as Livia is always in dresses. She was taken from the tunneling class, which is basically the super poor, unwanted economic class who works in the tunnels, chipping away at stone. Brandt is a lord, practically royalty. I love this paranormal historical fantasy ish setting! It's very unique.

Finally, the romance. There is romance in this novel. We know from the start that Livia is in love with Brandt (she explicitly says this to herself in the first or second chapter, somewhere around there). And then his parents sign contracts and arrange his marriage to Edina. So... you'd think that was a done deal. And the summary of this book mentions a "Marez". Notice this is the first time I'm saying his name... that's all I'm saying. I like the romance. There is no love triangle.

This is a standalone, and it ends quite well! A little too well? Perfectly well. It's the journey that counts, and the journey gets REALLY exciting. The beginning might seem slow (though I didn't find it slow), but the next half of the book takes off. I'm quite pleased with this novel!

What I Did Not Like:

I can see why others couldn't get into this one. The beginning does take time to get used to, to understand the world-building. I personally didn't mind this, but I do understand why a reader might have difficulty with this. So this is more of an FYI.

Same with the romance - the synopsis leads you to think there is a love triangle going on. There isn't. Though those who are extra super duper ridiculously sensitive to love triangles might be a bit bothered. You all know how particular I am about romance, and how much I HATE love triangles? And I'm telling you that there is no love triangle in this book. So. The idea of one is annoying, but there isn't one.

The ending is super fast. I think I missed one or two things, because the pacing took off like a rocket. I'm not sure I fully understand what happened to the enemy, though I understand the general concept. It seemed too abstract for me, but that could have just been me, questioning everything. And then the book ended really perfectly, so there's that. Good ends are great, but if they're cookie-cutter perfect, then I tend to wonder.

Would I Recommend It;

I liked this book! It's part historical fiction, part fantasy, part thriller? I absolutely love the blend of genres, and the story that Smith has created. Espionage, dreams, romance, war - what more could I ask for? The majority of the book isn't very fast-paced or action-packed, but it is a fascinating story, one that I do recommend to YA fans.

Rating:

3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. While I liked Sekret but didn't love Skandal, I certainly enjoyed this one! This is probably my favorite of the three Smith books. And the cover is the most lovely! That is really a plus.
Profile Image for ❀Aimee❀ Just one more page....
443 reviews93 followers
November 22, 2015
Livia is a dreamstrider that can take over another person's body while they are sleeping or unconscious. She is from the lower caste in her society but also the only one with her ability. She is used by the government for espionage when threats of war are looming.

I'm not sure why, but I just didn't connect with this book. I was interested in the premise, but it never really engaged me. Livia also annoyed me because she has no self esteem throughout the book. I know it the result of her poverty and lack of parental upbringing, but plenty of protagonists start this way with a fire in their belly. Perhaps it was her lack of fire that led to my lack of enthusiasm on this book.

Plenty of other reviewers have loved this one, so if the genre is a favorite for you, check it out!

Thank you Netgalley and Roaring Brook Press for a free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,891 followers
November 23, 2015
Dreamstrider is a romantic fantasy novel with a distinctly historical feel. It is Lindsey Smith’s third published full length novel, and to her credit, it’s practically bursting with diversity and fresh ideas. It is, however, a very flawed novel that required much more work on several aspects including composition.

Dreamstrider throws us straight into a complex world with very little in the way of explanation. It’s almost entirely up to us to figure out our way around, to understand the rules and limitations that apply to Barstadt and its inhabitants. I’ve had this same problem with Smith’s previous work, Sekret. She doesn’t pay too much attention to exposition and it always costs the reader (and consequently her) dearly.

I need to be very clear on the fact that Lindsey Smith’s imagination was put to very good use in this book. While I already mentioned that I found the exposition lacking, the complexity of the world, the social structure, the religious aspect and paranormal abilities were all on a very admirable level. It took a while to truly understand the world and its many intricacies and better explanations would have made the process less daunting and much more enjoyable, but that doesn’t change the fact that Smith has really outdone herself with the worldbuilding she offered.

The romance brought another disappointment, with the exasperating lack of honesty and communication between best friends. The idea of so much background between Livia and Brandt was stupendous, but I felt that it wasn’t used to its full potential. These two had years of history between them, all that work as partners for the Ministry, and yet they behaved like strangers, unable to read each other or talk about what’s most important.

While it gets huge points for originality and detail, Dreamstrider is a novel I would hesitate to recommend. There are just too many things that were left unclear and unexplained, too many characters that required more work and development and even the ending seemed a bit too rushed and well-rounded.




Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 27, 2016
DNF

I'm not saying this is a bad book, but I think it will appeal to you more if you like reading military space operas (it's not one exactly, but it reads just like it).

Sadly, the commandants, ministers and military tactics just put me to sleep. I don't think I can force myself through any more.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,651 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
October 19, 2015
Pages read: 38

It's not a good sign when I'm already skimming before I finish the second chapter. I really want to love Dreamstrider, and I want to love Lindsay Smith's books. The concepts are amazing, but something about her writing just doesn't work for me. Once again, the voice really isn't clicking, and I'm bored and confused. I don't think I'll end up enjoying this one, so I'm moving on. :(
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,392 followers
March 16, 2017
I mean, obviously this was getting five stars from me for its perfect dedication page no matter what, but oh the beautiful worldbuilding and ohhhhh how much I just wanted to hug and protect Livia and oh yes how I maybe manufactured some less than wholesome ideas with certain characters in my brain. (I'M SORRY BUT THIS BOOK HAS QUEER GIRLS AND A REDHEAD so I am actually not very sorry at all.)
Profile Image for Rayne.
862 reviews287 followers
October 7, 2015
It was just so. Damn. Boring. It felt like such a chore to get through this one, I had to literally force myself to remain focused on each page. While Smith did an admirable effort with the originality of this setting, which burst right off the page and blew away any misgivings I might have harbored over certain elements of this novel, I still derived close to no enjoyment out of this reading experience and felt completely detached from every single aspect of this novel.

The main problem is that, while the idea driving this novel is compelling, the attractiveness of it remains purely conceptual and fails to translate into an equally compelling and immersive execution. As a result, everything about this novel ends up coming across as bland and unmemorable. The characters and their relationships had absolutely no impact on me. Even if the author hadn't resorted to many of the typical YA romance clichés (love triangle, misunderstanding about the nature of the relationship between another two characters, seemingly hopeless pining after a perfect guy that everyone can see is into the main characters except for herself, easy resolution to a love triangle with the demonization of one of the two suitors, etc.), there was still nothing remarkable about these characters to make me care in the slightest about them or their stupid and needlessly convoluted romantic problems.

The main character, in particular, failed to stand out in any way or form. She hardly got any characterization beyond being this raging ball of insecurities. Her constant whining and pining after this guy was irritating, but even that failed to make an impression and make me feel in any way (even negatively) invested in her. She was just bland and generic, a carbon copy of the prototype of "Strong Female Character"TM that YA keeps trying to push, a character that's supposedly easy to like because of how inoffensive she is and that we are supposed to root for because she displays vaguely some modicum of bravery and intelligence and independence. The rest of the characters are as equally insipid, dull and distinctiveness. Everything that could've possibly been interesting about them remained firmly stuck to their character outlines and never developed into anything that could've engaged me in any way. I don't even remember their names.

The only aspects of the novel even remotely interesting were the bad guys and the mechanics of the dream world, and even those failed to make a dent in my armor of complete indifference. The explanations for the dream world became too convoluted and confusing after a while, the politics and mythology behind the world building far too intricate and underdeveloped, and the bad guys were never played to their full potential. The whole dreamstriding thing in particular failed to make sense to me and the explanations provided in the story never fixed the many holes I could see in the concept every time I read about it. I never felt the urgency of the story, never understood the importance behind the main character and her abilities, and I especially never managed to understand how exactly everything was resolved - and didn't care enough to re-read and find out.

I truly wish I could say more positive things about this novel because it is a very original and commendable effort, but to me, reading this book felt like a flat-line from beginning to end. I'm still struggling to think of something remarkable about it, but no aspect of this novel felt engaging to me. It's strange because this is not a slow novel but it felt like it dragged to me and that made it really hard for me to remain focused and interested. Quite frankly, I was just bored. Still, I'm fairly confident this is another case of "it's-not-you-it's-me", so while I failed to connect with the novel, I'm sure people interested in military/spy sci-fi dystopias with a pinch of fantasy will surely be intrigued by this one. For me, the book is almost entirely forgotten at this point.
Profile Image for Vilma.
601 reviews2,873 followers
October 19, 2015
Spellbinding—Dreamstrider is uniquely imagined with strikingly vivid world building and thrilling tension. You won’t read another book like it.

Rich world building, a slow burning romance and gripping tension enliven Smith’s fantastical dream world as a poor girl born to the tunnels beneath Barstadt works to rise above her caste. Livia’s life was not her own. She belonged to a gang who dictated her life. Only in her dreams did she feel the freedom she desperately longed for. When a Professor offers her a way out of that life, Livia seizes it, agreeing to spy for the government. Her unique ability to dreamstride—slip her soul into a subject’s sleeping body and inhabit them in the waking world—helps her to gather critical intel.

When the Barstadt Empire suspects an impending invasion, Livia and her partner Brandt’s missions become even more perilous. It’s dangerous to dreamstride, to move through the shared dreamworld of Oneiros. Your body’s tether can snap and propel you into the Wastes—a dark undertow where Nightmare devours.

Dreams rule Barstadt’s culture, weaving through government and religion to establish the foundational belief system for everyone from tunnelers to aristocrats. Nightmare was a dark entity believed destroyed by Dreamer (spiritual guide of Barstadt), but as Livia moves through Oneiros, she senses dark things stir to life.

As tension escalates and political machinations play out, Livia’s self doubt consumes and cripples her. She believes she’s not good enough for the Ministry, not a worthy vessel for her gift.

“I wish anyone else could have been given this skill. It pulled me from the sewage-laced tunnels I was born to and gave me purpose, the life I’d longed for, but the weight of failure hangs heavy on my soul. I wish I could give this gift to someone more deserving.”


In addition, her partner Brandt begins to pull away, inculcating the realization that she is in love with a man whom she can never be with. He’s an aristocrat who could never love, never be with, a former tunneler like herself.

Suddenly, however, reality and dreams begin to blur as Nightmare seems to wake. While their enemy readies, Livia is forced to work with suspect people from another land and treacherous aristocrats work to bind Nightmare once again. Dreamstriding is more dangerous than ever and Livia must step up to the challenge and uncover who/what threatens to shatter both the dream and waking world.

Smith’s story may not be for everyone—this is a high-concept story rife with intrigue and detail. I loved it though. I was so struck by the unusual, somewhat horrific and macabre world, and the striking juxtaposition of dreams and nightmares. It was as frightening as it was intriguing and alluring. Vivid, sharp and spellbinding. The espionage added the perfect amount of page-turning tension and suspense. But beyond the world building and the political intrigue, the story is really about a girl who struggles to believe in herself and her abilities, and what she must experience to embrace her past, present and the gifts she’s been given. It’s a wonderful story to get lost in.

“I am a dreamer, the one who can make all my dreams and hopes and wishes real.”


✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

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Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews712 followers
October 22, 2015
Actual Rating 3.5

***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

Espionage, Dreamstriding, Political Intrigue, PRETTY COVER.

Those are very tempting things to this reader. They made this reader's heart flutter with anticipation and made her very excited. So what does this reader think about the book? Does she think it was amazeballs or meh? Or somewhere in between perhaps?

This book was great but I also wanted a little bit more. It's harder to explain that in terms of this book because I finished the book feeling great and felt a lot of love for it but there are also things I wish there was more focus on.

Like the world building and the romance. I also wanted more tension. I wanted a book that would make me nervous as I read it because I would be trying to figure out what these characters next move would be. I wanted higher stakes (although it is funny I should say that given how high the stakes were already.)

So let me start with these things I wish were developed a little bit more. World building is crucial to all books (even contemporaries in some ways!) And the world building in this book was good, it just wasn't great. I loved the idea of Dreamstriders, and priests and the dreamers but there is also so much more that I would have liked to know. I wanted to know more about the world of Oneiros and Nightmare thing. I wanted to know about the experiments and the shards and so many things. This book is so unique and unlike anything I've heard of so when I went into this world, I expected to be blown away. I expected there to be drool coming out of my mouth as a gaped in awe but that didn't happen. Don't get me wrong, the details that were disclosed to us readers made me so excited but I also cannot help imagining what this book would have been like if we got more details.

I also adored the romance, but I also wanted more development in that area. The relationship between Livia and Brandt is fantastic and it is so clear to us that they both have feelings for each other but I would have liked more 'spark' moments. I LOVE LOVE LOVE slow burn but at the same time even with slow burn romances, there is an underlying, bubbling tension and I didn't feel that as much in the case of this book. Or maybe I focus on romance too much *shrugs* Don't take my need for more romance as a negative aspect of the book because it really isn't. These two characters are GREAT together and I shipped 'em like crazy and was waiting dying for them to get together. 

Livia, one half of this awesome sauce ship, is a fantastic female lead. I am not even sure what makes her great except that she is someone that is so easy to relate to for me. She is awkward, often times unsure of herself but also smart and capable. She is realistic given where she came from and I love the way she develops over the course of the book and the realizations she has.

The secondary characters in the book are also fantastic and there is some diversity SO YAY (because diversity is fantastic IMO.)  Lindsay develops so many of these characters. They may be minor but they sure as hell aren't bland.

The premise is perhaps what had me most excited about this book because I was curious to see how Lindsay would blend dreams and espionage together and boy did she deliver. The dream world was used in interesting ways to gather information and it didn't feel amateur. The people knew what they were doing. I do wish though that we got a little bit more of the political side of things. I wanted to know how the nobles interacted, I wanted to be shown all the ways they got their hands dirty rather than be told that they engaged in fishy stuff. I wanted more tension.

This book is very much about Livia's journey to self-acceptance and finally coming to peace with her abilities so other things kind of faded into the background. Overall though, this book is such a great read. It's SO MUCH fun and I cannot think of a reason why you shouldn't read this (unless espionage or dreams aren't really your thing.)

Note that I received an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Olivia-Savannah .
713 reviews481 followers
October 4, 2015
For this book, the hype was real. It was exceptionally real. But, on the other hand, well desered. Previous to hearing about this books release I had never heard of the author Lindsay Smith. I looked up the book on Goodreads and I have to admit, it was love at first sight. Who wouldn’t fall in love with that beautiful cover? I did decide that it isn’t good to fall in love with books based on looks (or people, for that matter) so I read the synopsis and that was when I KNEW it was true love. Dreams, espionage and a strong main character? I wanted that.

Boy, did this novel give it to me.

Lindsay Smith has managed to write this book in some of the most beautiful language I have read in a while. At times I felt like pulling out some of the lines and stringing them into a poem – that’s how melodic it really was. Yet at the same time it was never draggy on the story or overdone so it just seemed to fit. The novel kept progressing but every now and again I would marvel at how all the words so wonderful painted the images the author wanted me to see.

There was quite a bit to this world and the world building was on point. Livia comes from a place called Brandt where a hierarchy system is in place. There are different areas which we also explore excluding the city: the tunnels, Farthinger and also the Iron Winds. All of these places were so well depicted that I could basically imagine myself there. Of all the places Smith introduced us to, one was definitely going to be a favourite. The Dreamworld.

Dreaming is something sacred in Brandt, but no one knows dreams like Livia does. The dreamworld, called Oneiros, has its own rules. You can fly. You can see people as symbols and images. And if you are a dreamstrider like Livia? You can temporarily take over someone else’s body. HOW COOL IS THAT? No wonder she was a spy. It’s the ultimate weapon.

The dreamstriding idea and politics were exceptionally well described. I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it, but it was no issue at all! The novel also had quite a few subplots that all connected, and it was all so intricately done! Everything fell into place and it was such an intriguing read :3

Livia was an interesting character. I was expecting a strong willed character from reading the synopsis, but she was more so someone who continually doubted herself. She had this great power, but she wasn’t entirely sure how to wield it, and she did make mistakes. Of course, it was pretty important for her not to make those mistakes while they were on missions. I liked that she was a vulnerable character because in reality, we can’t all be strong and fierce and untouchable like Katniss. Livia was realistic and given a gift that she didn’t know what to do with. I am sure we have all felt like we fall short of some expectations at times, and that made her easy to relate to. Also – Olivia, Livia… how could I not like her when we basically have the same name?

The prologue (although really short) felt a bit rushed and it threw me a bit at the beginning. The overall pace of this novel was slower than I expected it to be, but I was never bored. It kept on going, steadily.

The romance in this novel wasn’t a prime, front aspect of it. Yes, it was there, but it was a subplot because there was too much other stuff happening that was the focus. I kind of liked that the romance wasn’t a big thing in the novel, but still liked it well enough!

One of the twists in the novel was a bit predictable, but the rest weren’t. I’m going to say the climax of this one was a bit bizarre and more out-there then I would have expected (best way to explain it without giving a spoiler!) but I did like it well enough. I really liked the conclusions Livia got to.

I am so reading the next novel Lindsay publishes :D

This review and more can be found on Olivia's Catastrophe: http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.nl/20...
92 reviews4 followers
January 4, 2021
Ich hatte zunächst Schwierigkeiten mit dem Buch. Die Sprache war nicht gerade simpel und die Geschichte auch ziemlich komplex. Zudem hat mich die Liebesgeschichte ein bisschen genervt. Dann hat mich aber die Spannung gepackt und nachdem ich mich in der Welt zurecht gefunden habe, gab es keinen Halt mehr. Ich habe sogar schlecht geschlafen aufgrund der ganzen Alptraum-Problematik!
Die Handlung war perfekt durchdacht und bis zum Ende spitze und voll spannender Wendungen. Sowohl mit der Sprache, als auch mit der Liebesgeschichte konnte ich mich dann doch noch anfreunden und Langeweile kam nun wirklich gar nicht auf.
Profile Image for Britt.
318 reviews81 followers
October 2, 2015
I am a huge fan a Lindsay Smith and also a huge fan of dreams so this books seemed a natural fit for me. While there was many thing I enjoyed I still felt a bit unsure of certain major points in Dreamstrider. I seem to always have this trouble with books involving dreams. This one at least had a great backbone of espionage to fall back on. I felt as if I was propelled through the story without ever really fully grasping the setting. There was always a hurdle to overcome and things flew by but it was never more than skin deep. Right off the bat we are introduced to the dream world of Oneiros. This dream world is like shared place where only the "Dreamers" most "devout" can enter and still have a thin tether to their bodies. The 'Dreamer' being a deity like figure that they believe in.This review was originally posted on Please Feed the Bookworm Click here to read reading my feels!
Profile Image for Andreea Pop.
320 reviews2,133 followers
Want to read
March 31, 2015
What's up with the plethora of amazing covers lately? Not that I'm complaining because look at that BEAUTY!

Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
512 reviews298 followers
October 31, 2015
Fafa's Book Corner (Wordpress)
Fafa's Book Corner (Blogger)

This book was recommended to me by my GR friend Alyssa ! Click on her name to read her review.

DNF

After reading the synopsis and Alyssa's review I knew that I must read it! I love heist and espionage novels and have always been fascinated by the dream world. You can imagine my excitement when this came in the mail. Unfortunately it wasn't what I thought it would be.

Livia is poor and for a living she works under some gang leaders. Her job is to clean the home of whoever she is assigned to. She is assigned to Professor Hesse. Hesse is very nice to her and they bound over her ability to dreamstride. Due to Livia's interest and her desire to create a better life for herself Hesse agrees to teach Livia how to dreamstride.

She falls in love with what she learns and spends as much time as possible in the dream world. One day she comes back a little late from the dream world. She quickly sets about cleaning when she overhears a conversation between Hesse and a man whose voice she does not recognize. Soon she realizes that they are discussing her. Specifically about her ability to dreamstride.

As she listens in on the conversation a boy who is sitting on the desk informs her that there is nothing to fear. She jumps and tries to avoid a conversation with said boy. Hesse and the unknown man greet her. They explain her that they would like her to work with the secret police and use her ability to do some spy work. The boy whose name is Brandt is the spy in training that she will be paired up with. She agrees.

The first chapter starts off with Livia explaining that while she has an incredible gift she isn't that good at using it. Sometimes she messes up and gets her and Brandt into trouble. But because the secret police value her gift so much she hasn't been killed.

She and Brandt are on another mission. They have been informed that someone is planning to wage war with the country they live in. For this mission Livia has used her dreamstriding abilities to take over General Sun. Brandt fakes to General Sun's valet. 'General Sun' has an appointment with the commandment of the army. During the meeting they have to extract information that will either prove that there is indeed a war or that their information was wrong.

As the meeting commences they confirm that there is indeed a war coming. While Livia speaks with the commandment Brandt looks around the room for clues. Livia has to physically extract information from the General's memory and in doing so this wakes the General. This allows the General to return to his body while Livia remains lost in the Nightmare Waste. Brandt covers for Livia and the two quickly leave. Before the General can do anything to Brandt he punches him. And Livia returns to her body.

While I was reading this I was completely confused about the dream world. At first I'd assumed that I got the jest of it. But as I continued reading I was completely dumbfounded. I had no idea what was going on and had to re-read some parts. Then it occurred to me that if I didn't understand what I was reading in the beginning how was I supposed to understand it for the rest of the book? The dream world was sure to play a big part in the book. So I dropped it.

I did enjoy reading about the characters. Livia was realistic with fears and she wasn't a special snowflake. She admits that she isn't that experienced in using her powers and is truly terrified of messing up. Brandt was sweet as was Hesse. The writing was good and engaging! Unfortunately these aspects were not enough.

Overall this was not a bad book. I simply had no patience when reading this. I would recommend it to fans of the dream world and heist novels. I would also recommend it to readers who have lots of patience.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for KL (Cat).
177 reviews132 followers
August 5, 2015
A quick 5 minutes' worth of notes:

> The prose could be more polished
> No insta-love, which is brilliant
> Queer girls! Queer girls!
> Some of the villains were more interesting than the good characters, especially a certain Darkling-like character *cough cough*
> The plot twist totally threw me off, and then everything exploded at once
> I demand more world building! Further information on the priests, religious customs, the Nightmare and the Dreamer would be nice.
> Again, I wish the book could have explored more on Vera's backstory, and Livia's life in the Tunnels.
> Names in general weren't that creative
> At first I was wary that Livia would be infected with the Special Snowflake Syndrome, but it turns out.. hint ;) ;)
> And that cover! That's some damn epic photoshop
> Seems like incompetent civil servants are a thing
> First person POV, which I dislike and it takes a while to get adjusted to
> It's really not a love triangle, so don't be worried guys!


Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,040 followers
June 24, 2015
Ehhh. Not as good as I hoped it would be.

I wanted them to spend more time in the dream world so I wouldn't have to watch Livia pine over her love interest/best friend, the bland Brandt. Romance was so predictable. I wasn't even paying attention to them because I knew what would happen.

Villains were more interesting than any of the good guys. I guess it's harder to write an original, good character without them turning into every other honorable, vanilla stick figure out there.

There's no denying it. The cover is beautiful. Whoever designed it deserves a raise because I'm sure a lot of people are going to buy the book just by looking at it. (Hey! I'm one of those people! I got all 3 Mara Dyer books!) These beautiful covers are so deceiving! I need to exit the hype train and wait for the first reviews before getting all excited.
Profile Image for Lindsay Smith.
Author 45 books439 followers
Read
March 25, 2015
3/25: And the cover is finally here! I've been told ARCs may be available at BEA 2015...
Profile Image for Tika .
149 reviews119 followers
October 11, 2015
Review originally posted at fANGIRLconfessions

Slow and steady wins the race. Or does it?

Dreamstrider was one of my most anticipated reads of this month. Besides the gorgeous cover, I loved everything the synopsis was giving me. Body control, spies, empires, even politics, it just all screamed ME. Up until part two of the story, everything was all good. The writing was exceptional from beginning to end, but the plot - the plot was dwindling fast, and it wasn't until I was around 60% when it dawned on me that this book had everything I could ask for, EXCEPT one major thing was slightly off . . .
The Pacing.

In this fantastic tale, we follow our main character Livia, a laborer from the tunnels. Unlike anyone else in all of the empire of Barstadt, Livia has a strange but wonderful ability to inhabit the body of another while they're asleep. Her soul controls the body in the waking world, allowing her to move around in their skin, as well as tinker with their memories to collect information, or to learn little tidbits of details about the person who's body she's hosting. This labels her as a dreamstrider, and because she's the only person to possess such a skill, she was hired to work as a spy for the Ministry, a secret union organized by the emperor. Sounds pretty damn interesting right?


Did Liv borrow an invisibility cloak from Harry or?

Let's keep it real, Livia isn't the most . . . lively character. She's a sensible girl, VERY relateable, but for a story like this, I needed someone fierce - someone with an explosive personality that would've grabbed my attention from the start. I often overlooked her, which should seem impossible because HELLO, the story is told in her perspective, but she could've easily been a soggy cardboard box discarded in an dark alley, I honestly didn't notice her. Throughout majority of the story she was quite timid, which added fuel to the fire when it came to her self-confidence. I had such a hard time connecting with her because of this, but I do however, think she was well developed. In the beginning she doubted not only herself but her abilities, and by the end, she transformed into this phoenix that suddenly rose from the ashes and raised all kinds of hell, BUT that's the problem. The character development happened damn near on the same sentence as " THE END ", so by this time I'm sighing and whispering, " it's a little late Liv, a little too late. "

Romance-Nomance

If you're big on romance, and need it as a forefront of the story and developed well, then Houston you'll have a problem. While there isn't a messy love triangle, (you can release the breath you were holding now) we are still spoon fed a double dose of boy drama. Secondary characters, Brandt and Marez, play huge roles within the story. Brandt, son to a royal family, operative to the Ministry, and Livia's bestfriend, just so happens to be her secret crush. With B-rand (yes I gave him a nickname) being from a royal family, and Liv from a lower class in their society, a relationship between the two would be next to impossible. It wasn't as if I were rooting for them anyway. With Liv falling a bit flat and poor Brandt following suit, they weren't a match made in fictional heaven for me.

Then there's Marez, the mysterious I can't really say, handsome guy from a neighboring city called Farthinger. From the beginning I knew he was up to something, but that didn't stop me from being all the way intrigued by his character. He was dark, snarky, and okay a little evil, but I felt he and Livia had sparked more chemistry than she and Brandt could ever ignite. I was able to guess the plot twist pretty early on, and because I'd take betrayal over love any day, I wasn't all that dissatisfied as others.
It's always the good boy she can't have, or the handsome boy that's no good eh?

The mumbo jumbo.

To be completely honest, I had sooo much trouble rating this book. After 3 days of heavy debating, I finally settled on 4 stars. Problem is, I STILL feel conflicted. Dreamstrider had the bones to be a 5 star read for me, but a few missing ingredients kept it from being a dish I could've really loved. I didn't care for our female protagonist, the romance could've been X'd out of the story completely, and the pacing was painfully slow, causing the plot to drag on more than on occasion. However, the writing was beautifully done, the concept was complex, but captivatingly so, and the world-building was crafted so well, I was engaged from beginning to end. So with these aspects being absolutely amazing, shouldn't that be enough to overlook major issues?

YES? NO? MAYBE?

FML Dreamstrider has officially defeated the slay queen.
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,120 reviews1,348 followers
October 28, 2015

3.5/5

Confession time. I only picked up Dreamstrider because of the lovely cover. I didn't even bother reading the summary. Good thing the book was a blast to read though and totally lived up to that fantastic cover!

When I first started Dreamstrider, I was honestly a little confused. The world building was hazy, and very baffling, especially since this was the first time in my reading experience that I had come across such an interesting concept of dreamwalking. Throughout the book though, the world building became clearer in small doses as we watch the main character, Livia, navigate the story. That being said, there were still parts of it that I wish were more fleshed out so that I had a stronger idea of what was really going on. While the world building itself left me a little dazed, I did enjoy the politics of it. It was engaging and certainly held my attention. Dreamstrider could also be slow at times in the plot, but I never felt like the story itself was boring by any means. There was something about the writing that consumed me through and through and I honestly had a hard time putting the book down. Lindsay Smith's writing captured the atmosphere of her world so well. It was hard to look away. Not to mention, the book had fantastic villains. These were villains that I was never really sure were good or bad, and trying to figure them out was an experience in itself.

The protagonist, Livia, herself was very likeable. While she wasn't exactly a memorable heroine for me, her kindness, sweet nature and selfless attitude spoke to me while I was reading. For a slow book like Dreamstrider, I thought she was the perfect heroine. I think what would have made her really stand out as a character for me would have been the exploration of where she came from and how she came to be the person she was, which was sadly lacking in Dreamstrider. The side characters were also an interesting and diverse bunch, including the love interest, Brandt. They all played an important role in moving the plot forward and I liked how they were given equal importance. Dreamstrider wasn't exactly a romance-centric novel, but I still very much enjoyed the few glimpses of the romance that we got. Livia has always been in love with Brandt, who at first didn't seem to realize it, but when it did dawn on him, we were treated to delightful smoldering kisses. It was sweet and you guys know how quick I am to devour best friends to more romances. Part of me would have loved to have a little bit more of the romance between the two, but I was also happy what the book presented.

Overall, Dreamstrider was a book I enjoyed despite some minor issues with the world building. It had such a unique fantasy world and I recommend reading the book just to experience it. What this book has proved with confidence though is that I need to read more by Lindsay Smith.
Profile Image for Shay.
234 reviews39 followers
October 18, 2015
Actual rating: 4.5 Stars

*I received an advanced review copy of this book through Netgalley*

Can we start with the cover? Because it's a work of beauty. I would hang that on my wall, no lie.

More importantly! This book. Oh, I loved this book. I am fascinated by anything to do with dreams (though they also kind of freak me out) and a YA fantasy book about dreams? That's really all I knew about it, but it was enough!

Livia is a dreamstrider, the only one as far as she knows. This means she can go into the dream world, called Oneiros, which only select few (mainly the priests to the Dreamer) can do. What's even more unusual is that she can dreamstride, take over other people's bodies in the real world while they dream. This makes Livia the perfect spy -- or it should at least.

I have to say what really made me love this book so much is the world. I've never read anything like it, everything little thing felt new and unique. I loved the idea that their god (basically) was the Dreamer and their devil (again, basically) was Nightmare. Just, think about that for a moment, how can it not intrigue you?

Dreamstrider really brings it with its amazing world and premise. There's secrets, deception, greed, lots of bad things, and so much espionage! I'm not the biggest fan of espionage/political fantasy type books but I was so intrigued by the world and plot, so in love with the characters, I completely forgot that it wasn't my favorite thing.

The characters! Ah, as if I didn't love enough about this book already. Livia is not your average main character who's the chosen one and good at everything. As far as she can tell, she's not really good at much. Even Dreamstridering. She's convinced the Dreamer gave her this gift for a reason but she's also plagued with doubts and memories of all her past failures. She's flawed and uncertain and such a well-written character.

I admit, I have a ship or two, not going to say who but there's plenty of moments for subtle swooning. The romance never takes over the plot and there isn't even a wisp of insta love.

I'm having a hard time writing a coherent review... Just know you should go and read it as soon as possible okay?

I know what you're thinking, if I loved this so much, why the half star? Well, I did love it and once I got into it I was really into it. I wanted to drown myself in this world and characters. But parts were slow and it dragged just a little in the beginning and middle. And for once I wanted the romance to pick up, okay!?

Overall: I really enjoyed this one. It's a great fantasy novel and I was not disappointed by the dream related things that I was so looking forward to. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,157 reviews458 followers
October 31, 2015
**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.**

*Genre* Young Adult, Fantasy
*Rating* 3.5

*My Thoughts*

Welcome to yet another entertaining story by Lindsay Smith, the author of the duology known as Sekret. The Sekret duology focused on teenagers who have amazing psychic abilities and are used to spy on their enemies during the cold war. Now, let's step away from the real world for a moment, and enter the Barstadt Empire where there is a dreamland known as Oneiros.

*Full Review Posted 10/31/2015*

http://gizmosreviews.blogspot.com/201...

*Recvd via Publisher* Expected publication: October 6th 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
Profile Image for Katherine Locke.
Author 14 books505 followers
March 25, 2015
I was lucky enough to read this book a little early and I cannot say enough good things about it. It's beautifully written, inventive, lush, and Livia's a character who earns your love and respect. That's a rare gift, not unlike Dreamstriding, and Smith brings this world and characters to life with a deft hand. A must read!
Profile Image for Arie ☂.
421 reviews165 followers
November 12, 2015
DNF at 46% because I am just so bored, and I've been reading this for almost two weeks. I LOVED Sekret and Skandal and the premise of this one sounded amazing, but I just can't get into it.
Profile Image for Brittany S..
1,486 reviews697 followers
February 18, 2017
Initial Impressions 8/2/15: I'm so sad I didn't love this one. The whole time I just kept hoping for more world-building to help establish more about Oneiros, the Dreamer, and Nightmare but the plot kept progressing and I still didn't feel like I had a grip on the whole concept of the book.
The pros: I loved the dream world. I really enjoyed the interactions there and the mechanics of how dreamstriding worked. It was interesting to see how special Livia's gift was and how the details progressed. SOME of the characters were really dynamic. I guess I really enjoyed the ones that made their presence known. Edina and Vera were really great and I kind of loved Marez and Kriza. Brandt and Livia were fairly decent characters and I did like the tension between them.
The cons: I just really needed more world-building, when it comes down to it. Could be a personal preference but I just wanted to know so much more about this world before the plot took off. There was a prologue which provided some details of Livia's life before she started dreamstriding and while I appreciate the fact that the book didn't need to spend an inordinate amount time setting everything up, I think it would have benefitted from spending a bit more time establishing exactly what this fantasy world was and how it worked. I didn't really know what the Dreamer and the Nightmare were or how they fit into the world and dictated societal and religious rules.
The combination of a sort of science-fiction aspect like delving into dreams and the setting in a fantasy world felt like a bit much. I adore both concepts and ideas but they didn't quite seem to mesh well. I supposed they could have but I didn't feel like enough time was spent with either concept to really establish them individually and then really bring them both together. I felt sort of thrown into dreamstriding and into the fantasy world in which the book was set and didn't quite feel grounded in either.
I felt abruptly introduced to characters as well. I knew that Livia was important of course being the main character but I wished I could have known a bit more of her past aside from the short prologue. I also felt like I was just thrown into meeting Edina and Vera and wished I could have gotten to know them a bit better before they became more crucial to the plot.
The plot was interesting but I also still wasn't quite hooked throughout the book. The book felt a bit long and I just wish things had shaped up a bit differently. Again, this could all just be a personal preference since I haven't really read any other reviews for the book yet. I'm curious to see what everyone else has to say! I thought the concept was just fantastic but the execution didn't quite work out for me.

Full review as originally posted HERE on The Book Addict's Guide 9/7/15: I’ve been so excited for DREAMSTRIDER since I first heard about the book and the concept so this was a book I didn’t want to wait too long to read. I was in a particularly picky mood and wanted something totally different when I started it and I will say that I think DREAMSTRIDER fit that bill for the most part but overall, it was a bit of a choppy read for me.

The book is a sort of mash-up between science-fiction and fantasy to me. Livia is a dreamstrider — a person who can inhabit someone’s body by delving into the depths of their subconscious — and the concept of dreamstriding felt very sci-fi to me. I suppose it could be more fantasy since it’s not an actual science and more of an ability, but it was reminiscent of what the characters could to in Inception (although it is quite different) so it felt more like a mash-up of genres rather than just fantasy. The book also takes place in a fantasy world which actually sort of reminded me of the worlds in The Lies of Locke Lamora and Six of Crows so the overall feel for me was mostly fantasy-based, but I do think I had a hard time separating myself from that science-fiction feel or rather, I don’t think I really felt grounded in either science-fiction or fantasy and I had a hard time blending the two when it should have felt like a natural part of the world and totally seamless.

The concept and the world were both incredibly interesting but overall, I really wished both of them had been a bit more developed. I loved the idea of dreamstriding but I wish there had been more of an introductory phase or an earlier explanation — and same for the world-building as well. This was another book where I wish I had more explanation earlier on in the book instead of introducing large concepts rather quickly. It wasn’t really a bad thing but I think getting a better grip on the feel and the setting right of the bat would have helped me fall into the book as a whole much easier. I struggled more with understanding the backstory and the sort of mythology of it all (Mythology? Religion? History? They all kind of seem to be one in the same here) and I really would have benefited from having more knowledge of The Dreamer, Nightmare, and Oneiros much earlier in the book. It was really interesting once hints were dropped, things were learned, and the characters began digging but it sometimes it was hard to understand why things were important without knowing what the foundation of this fantastical world was.
I did really enjoy the dreamworld of Oneiros. It was so visually appealing and incredibly interesting and I liked exploring that world with Livia. I do wish I had understood more about it’s construction but at the same time, it’s a dreamworld so things are not quite so concrete there. I also actually wanted to spend much more time exploring everything about it!

Livia was a hard character for me to connect to for some reason and I seemed to have that issue with most of the characters, actually. She was the main character so of course the reader spends the most time with her and yet I never quite got a grasp on her personality or how I felt about her. I also wanted so much more out of any of the secondary characters because I felt like they were quickly introduced and all of a sudden it was like I was supposed to know them. I kept confusing two girls until I finally got more of their backstories and was able to keep them apart. I did enjoy Brandt but again, wanted to see him have even more interactions with Livia. He kept flitting in and out and I couldn’t get a grip on their relationship. I knew what it was supposed to be but never felt it myself.
Marez was the one stand-out character for me. I do love a scoundrel and he was always sharp-tongued and quick-witted. I actually sort of loved him and maybe he was supposed to be a little bit of a question mark but I enjoyed that. I liked that his presence was questionable but he really pushed Livia to get outside of her shell and drop some of her guard.

Somehow this book was 400 pages and yet I had trouble with the development of everything and really wanted to be so much more grounded in each concept and each character. I’m not sure exactly how since it was already a slightly hefty novel for YA (not too bad but 400 pages starts to toe the line of a longer book) but I couldn’t help but feel like I needed more plot, more explanation, more world-building, and more character development. The pacing started to feel like it was dragging towards the middle and right before the end so I found my mind wandering instead of being sucked into the pages. Maybe it was just a personal issue but I had trouble making those connections and this was a book whose concept should have struck chords with me all around.
Profile Image for Zoey Talbon.
198 reviews97 followers
May 15, 2016
The first thing I need to say about Dreamstrider: confusing. Confusing, confusing, confusing. Confusing from page one. I'm finished with the book and I still don't fully understand the different kingdoms and how the Dreamworld works and how Livia does what she does or how the Barstadt society works. Livia came from a life in the Tunnels, but I don't know what that life was like or how people live their lives there. I have a lot of unanswered questions. Too many. I'm getting kind of irritated as I type this because I DON'T KNOW IF I UNDERSTAND ANYTHING AT ALL.

But. BUT. Despite the confusion, despite the details I think were left out, I enjoyed Dreamstrider. The highlight was the main character. Livia has an ability no one else has - but she's not a Special Snowflake who conveniently runs perfect missions every time, tricks and fools everyone into giving her whatever information she needs. You're not going to see her in an action sequence in the style of Black Widow. She's a spy, sure. But she's clumsy. And not in an "oh oops I tripped look how cute I am!" Clumsy in a way that can put people in danger on missions. She doesn't have the sharp eye that others working for the Ministry have, can't talk her way out of a situation. She's only there because she's the only person with the ability to dreamstride. She is constantly surrounded by people who are forced to rely on her, people who don't really believe in her. She's a spy who definitely doesn't know how to be a spy in any conventional sense, and I loved it.

I think some people might end up annoyed by all of Livia's insecurities and pining, but I think it added character, made her feel more real, gave her depth. Take your pick. I actually really loved it.

And I did love the concept of dreamstriding. Livia can enter someone else's body while they sleep, impersonate them, move in their body, dip into their memories. But if she goes too far, she risks waking them up when they can take back control - and throw her unconscious into a place it might never come back from. I'm just really fuzzy on some of the details of how she holds the inhabitant back - there were bits about lizards and foxes and not making them angry and I DON'T KNOW. I JUST DON'T KNOW.

I think the world-building could have used some work, too. I never really felt like I got a clear picture of what Barstadt looked like, how its economy worked, what the people did. All we see is their devotion to the Dreamer - their version of God - and just tiny glimpses of the inequalities. Livia's best friend, Brandt, is an upper class man who's eventually going to have to leave the Ministry - and Livia - to be a Real Man with his family. Or something. Basically I'm just going to say "I don't know" again. And the surrounding kingdoms/empires/cities? We find out very little about them. BUT. But. I really enjoyed what we did get to see. It sounds like a really cool world.

As for the overall plot, I can't say there was anything particularly astounding to me. There were definitely quite a few weak points, but I keep coming back to loving the idea of dreamstriding. And I know I've sounded really negative about it all but the truth is that I enjoyed Dreamstrider. I enjoyed reading about a heroine who was so different, and despite all my confusion about the Dreamworld, it still felt very unique to me and the author did a great job of making it its own world.

And I was, of course, rooting for the romance. I'm a sucker for best friend romances, for people in totally different classes who find love. I wish that Brandt and Livia had had more intense or passionate moments together, but overall, I really liked it. (And there's no love triangle. Not really. Promise.)

tl;dr: Personally, I definitely suffered from confusion. I wish there had been a lot more detail concerning the aspects of dreaming and the entire world. But Livia was one of my absolute favorite characters to read about. Lindsay Smith did something really special with her. 3.5 stars.
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149 reviews14 followers
February 10, 2016
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First Thoughts 31/01/16

Don't you just love when you pick a book up because of cover love and then it turns out the story is flipping INCREDIBLE! I was not expecting such a detailed high fantasy but that's what I got and I loved every second of it!! The ending did feel really rushed tho - and that may be because it's a standalone fantasy from what I understand. You should all go and read this!! Seriously!
RTC!

Review 10/02/16

Guys, I 100% picked this book up because it has a cover sent straight from the cover gods and then imagine my utter ecstatic surprise when it also happened to be bloody amazing!

I have mentioned only about a trillion times that I love complex world building and Dreamstrider has that in spades. The entire concept of the world is based on around a religion around Dreams and the meanings behind them. I loved how Lindsay was able to write about Livia’s dreams in a way that completely captured the weird and unique flow and atmosphere that dreams take on! I also loved all the war tactics and intricate class system and corruption of the world. So much thought and effort went into making the world in Dreamstrider believable and distinct and Lindsay sure did succeed!

Livia, our protagonist, was pretty damn awesome! Maybe the true definition of the chosen one but not in a way that distracts from her inner strength! The romance of this book kind of disappoint me. There was a tad of a love triangle (like barely even there) but I was totally shipping Livia with the guy she doesn’t end up with :( . But even the guy I shipped her with wasn’t that amazing. I think this book could have totally stepped it up in the romance department.

Dreamstrider is a standalone fantasy and the ending totally proved this. The ending felt really rushed and confusing. Like, they don’t even defeat the bad guys in the end! You could tell that Lindsay just wanted to finish the story already. 

One thing that blew my fantasy loving mind about this book was that it contained a lesbian couple!!!! I DON’T THINK I’VE EVER READ A FANTASY WITH LBGTI+ CHARCATERS!! Although they are just secondary characters and we don’t get to learn a lot about them, I was like over the moon they were included!

Even though it might sound like I didn’t enjoy this book I really really loved it! I’ll be crossing all my fingers that Lindsay announces that she’s going to turn it into a series!! I recommend that you definitely give this book a read if you can. Also, if you know of any YA fantasies with LBGTI+ characters in it let me know, I want to read more!!
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