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What do Nightmares Dream of

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There’s someone else living in Sanja’s flat and they don’t pay the rent. But for Sanja, the next time she falls asleep she just might end up paying the ultimate price.

Sanja has already made some hard choices in life. She took out a loan to get her own place for the first time ever, and now she’s repaying it by working at the most ungrateful job in history: elementary school teacher.

The last thing she needs is her nightmares to start tormenting her, as if her grandmother’s special breed of childcare wasn’t enough.

In a world that doesn’t believe in old wives’ tales, her options are limited. It’s now up to her to deal with her supernatural pest or forever fall asleep trying.

A sapphic horror novella in 37k words.

105 pages, ebook

Published October 15, 2020

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About the author

Antonija Mežnarić

11 books23 followers
Antonija Mežnarić is living and breathing speculative fiction. Sometimes she reads, sometimes she writes, but mostly she procrastinates. Besides that, she loves to hold lectures and quizzes on various topics at conventions, while in cosplay.

In 2012 she got the Protosfera award for the best published speculative fiction story by a young author.

If she had to pick favorite genres that would include: urban fantasy, supernatural horror and fairy tale retellings.

Notable works include her sapphic horror comedy novella What do Nightmares Dream of and queer folk horror collection Mistress of Geese.

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5 stars
13 (56%)
4 stars
4 (17%)
3 stars
4 (17%)
2 stars
1 (4%)
1 star
1 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews
3 reviews
February 2, 2021
Great horror mystery novella filled with some strikingly visceral nightmare descriptions and decent character developments.

What made it even more interesting for me is that, unlike typical horror story where one usually has some ghost/monster/apparition/some other paranormal no-gooder of your choice who usually one-sidedly terrorises the helpless victim, here it does not take long to observe that the main character, Sanja, is far from passive scared receiver of terror.

On contrary, almost for the outset Sanja approaches her paranormal tormenter in quite charming mix of half resigned passive to more openly aggressive ways: making for a refreshing cat and mouse dynamic, where it is not always clear who stands for mouse, and who is the one who meows - that way giving us the interesting (in some parts fun, in other chilling) tension that lasts almost the whole book's length, and which even goes beyond any simple antagonism.

On the downside, I would love that Antonija took more time to develop locations of city of Rijeka as something more central & tied in to the story, which goes beyond just atmospheric, but simple and somewhat shallow hints of everlasting rain, fog and gloom, usually seen through her apartment window. At the same time, even if it makes Rijeka pretty generic, the story flows well either way.

As evidence of the latter, I add that I found the book to be a decent page turner, basically finishing it one night and a bit of morning.

On personal note, I actually dozed off while reading it towards morning, around the part of the Nightmare malevolently hovering over the body of sleeper. Only to be woken by my girlfriend literally hovering over me before she said what she wants. That certainly gave me a proper morning kick start, especially with book's images still fresh in mind and before I was being able to interpret the whole situation properly in those 4-5 initial seconds. So heed my experiential advice: def thread lightly if you intend to read it before sleep :D
Profile Image for Beth 'Misselthwaite'.
42 reviews26 followers
August 17, 2021
A copy of the book was provided to Sapphic Book Club in exchange for an honest review.



So let me start off by saying this was a delightful (am I allowed to say that about horror? Haha) read and surprisingly unique take on some of the typical tropes and types of the genre, which was pleasing to see!

The story itself follows teacher Sanja, who has moved into an apartment that, in the horror fashion we know and love, we very swiftly find out or at least think might be haunted. The progression that follows sees Sanja not only discover the demon, or mora, who seems to be the cause of her nightly distress, but also confront it(her?). Although due to the length of the novella itself, the story is so quickly paced and soon finds its conclusion, said conclusion remains a surprisingly satisfying one, with all the plot threads neatly circling back or tied up. The pacing itself does not detract at all from the story but rather keeps you turning the pages, eager for the next encounter with the demons both literal and personal that are stalking our main character in both dreams and daylight.

The author clearly knows her content well, and the story is richly populated with cultural references and literary nods that are fun to find if you are a like-minded reader, plus the inclusion of Croatian culture and folklore really adds to the feel of the story. Likewise, the author spares no expense with her vivid descriptions, particularly of the nightmares that are deliciously violent at times but these are all woven into the story in such a way that adds to the genre feel, much like the works of Darren Shan, in how the horror elements are used to portray much deeper personal stories and demons we might all face in life. Although we don't all have a nightmare demon to take care of things for us.

My one qualm with the relationships is that I didn't feel as much chemistry between Sanja and Ana as I might have liked. Ana seems nice enough when she appears and is always kindly toward Sanja, but I often found myself thinking or leaning toward Sanja's moments with the mora more. The scene with Sanja showing her paintings to the mora, and the moja slowly traces her fingers over it, felt much more impactful to me than say the Ana and Sanja scene in the coffeeshop. Whether this was the author's intention to have us sympathise with the mora in this way by the end, or with the rather intimate descriptions of how the mora acts around Sanja during the night, I'm not sure, but if not then I think perhaps the sapphic intentions could have been explored more.

I'm tempted to say I would have liked this expanded into a longer novel to really explore some of the nuances in it a bit more, but also that might lose some of the charm and satisfying beginning-middle-end tidiness it already has. I also hesitate to say there were a number of typographical errors or phrasing mishaps in the copy I read, but I am aware that as a translation(?) this was likely to occur and does not detract from the voice of the story but rather adds to the unique tone of the character as you read.

All in all an enjoyable twist on the genre, that managed to surprise me toward the end which I like to think these days is a little more difficult to do for me in horror. Would be a good winter read, when those cold wet nights draw in quick and dark, and you can settle in with a chilling book for an evening that also has so much more to say about family and societal expectations underneath. 4* well done!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kokechii.
136 reviews
October 14, 2020
I fell in love with the title itself. And then, I kind of fell in love with the book itself. Wasn't sure what to expect but I felt so pleased after finishing it; I love stories like these and when the author knows how to finish them. Highly recommended for reading!
Profile Image for Entazis.
140 reviews
Read
October 11, 2020
What to expect from this book?
A gloomy atmosphere, horror comedy, lesbian yearning, family drama and very tired teacher wanting to just have a peaceful night's sleep.
Profile Image for Еl.
136 reviews
August 24, 2022
Because I'm a pedantic a$$, there's some extremely US-American phrases in this novella that irked me, made it feel like it was written by an American. Some typos as well, frankly they were just funny.

THAT BEING SAID: I loved this so much. The characters feel so real, I've definitely met them irl as a Balkan, but not Croatian, person myself. They're very well developed. The pace of the story is what makes it or breaks it for me, and here it is absolutely fantastic! I loved the ending too, so much. A perfect balance between the two most obvious outcomes
Profile Image for Courtney.
50 reviews2 followers
October 15, 2021
3.5
I really struggled to rate this book. Bcos the story is wonderfully creative and it includes some amazingly detailed scenes. BUt it woefully needs an editor. I found so many typos and missing words that it at times brought me completely out of the experience.
Profile Image for Ana Cerovac.
Author 4 books23 followers
October 14, 2020
Loved the atmosphere, the descriptions of my hometown, the traumatic background of the main character, and the way all her memories and nightmares were so vividly and hauntingly illustrated in the book. This is a great novella and I know it is going to stay with me.
Profile Image for Avery M..
100 reviews
February 23, 2022
2.5
The idea here is really interesting. A horror comedy a Croation teacher finds herself haunted by a creature from folklore. A mora, a creature who plagues its victims with nightmares as it tries to strangle them and feed on their soul as they sleep. The teacher has suffered a fair deal of trauma before, and knows what it's like to live with monsters. The nightmares are interesting to read, I liked the main character, and I love learning about new folklore from a culture I'm not familiar with.

If this passed though a few more edits I think it could have been really good. As it is (at least in the ebook) the writing comes off really stilted, there's A Lot of typos, I can remember at least one passage where the tense changed multiple times. Cool idea messy execution.
13 reviews
January 9, 2022
This was both horrifying and funny, which is a hard balance to strike. The author builds a pressure throughout. She explores both the micro-pressure that is placed on an individual by themselves and family, as well as the macro pressure of social conditioning and traditional institutions. It made me hopeful that positive/incremental social change is possible and facilitated by the death of older, traditional value systems. We just need to be strong enough not to be destroyed by them in the meantime.
122 reviews
October 12, 2021
A real ripper novella.

You see a great depth into the mind of the protagonist and attempts to live with past trauma. Besides being cool textually in the story, the mora was a perfect metaphor for the struggles and repression of Sanja.

Also the mundane and stubborn reactions and interactions between Sanja and the mora were all great. There is something just so funny about Sanja being attacked by the mora and then she is just like “fuck you” to it.

Five coffee dates out of five
Profile Image for Alex Jiménez.
Author 6 books21 followers
May 31, 2022
i really enjoyed this! dream sequences are not My Thing at all, so i kind of glazed over those parts, but i really loved how the author subverted the haunted house trope and played around with Croatian folktales. sanja was a great protagonist and i loved the sapphic themes as well. i like the discussion of mental illness as well as the use of a haunted house as metaphor for depression. 4.5 stars rounded up (just bc dream sequences are not My Thing and there were a lot of them)
Profile Image for Kimberly.
297 reviews5 followers
September 16, 2022
This was an entertaining short read. I liked the evolution of the relationship between the haunted and the mora. The snarky, humorous thoughts of the haunted were quite enjoyable and the author wrote some quite lovely lines. Very lovely considering that English is obviously not the author's first language. While the story did have some typos and flaws in grammar there were not enough to put me off reading or to distract from the storyline.
Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews

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