A bit of background before we begin: Dreamhunter (2006) by Elizabeth Knox first came to my attention when I was talking to “Amy” the YA librarian at my place of employ. As a fellow fantasy fanatic she also thought I would admire the writing. I, however, did not remember to write down the title. A bit later, upon hearing about writing troubles I had been having, Amy once again recommended Dreamhunter. This time I immediately put the book on hold. And looking back now I am ashamed that I waited so very long to read it.
Dreamhunter is Knox’s first novel for a young adult audience, although I feel obligated to point out that the genre label here applies more to the fact that her main characters are teens than anything to do with the novel’s subject or prose. She is also the author of several novels for adults.
Like so many great fantasy novels, Dreamhunter is set in a world not that different from our own. The one reminder that this novel is not like any other period book set in 1906 has to do with dreams.
For a very few people, perhaps one in every three hundred, dreams really are tangible in the Place: a mysterious other-world far larger than the few acres of woodland that in encompasses in the real world. The Place hold dreams. Of the few that can enter the Place, fewer still are able to sleep there and bring the dreams back to the general public where the dreams can be performed in private residences or in a dream palace like the Rainbow Opera–a sort of theater for dreams–for the public good. Dreamhunters, when they have enough skill and talent, can make their fortunes by catching the right dreams.
No one knows this better than the novel’s fifteen-year-old protagonist, Laura Hame, and her cousin, Rose Tiebold. Laura’s father, perhaps one of the best dreamhunters ever, discovered the Place and Rose’s mother is another very skilled dreamhunter.
But, as Laura and Rose are about to learn, all is not right in their world. When Laura’s father disappears under mysterious circumstances she and her cousin set out to find the secret behind not only his disappearance but also, perhaps, the very secret of the Place itself.
Aside from its thrilling plot, Dreamhunter is a wonderful novel because of Knox’s background work. As soon as I opened this book, I felt like I was immersed in Laura and Rose’s world. It didn’t matter that I had never heard of dreamhunters, or Tricksie Bend, or the Grand Patriarch because Knox incorporated all of these new ideas effortlessly into her plot. I was hooked, almost literally, for the entire 365 pages of this novel.
The writing here is rich without being overdone and beautiful without being conspicuous about it.
This story opens in the year 1906. The choice of time period, as well as Knox’s writing style bring to mind Garth Nix’s powerhouse fantasy novel Sabriel. I loved Sabriel (as I love all of Garth Nix’s books), but I might have loved Dreamhunter slightly more if for nothing save its ending–one of the best I have read of late.
Laura and Rose’s story continues in Dreamquake the conclusion of Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter Duet.
Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Chime by Franny Billingsley, The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner