[I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A very interesting theme, but ultimately this novel felt more like an introduction.
I liked the idea of a world shaping its inventions through thoughts, from concepts and a strange machine called the Blunderbuss. I liked the explanation behind how this weird science worked, where exactly the concepts and images came from, not to mention that in general, anything that has to do with dreams tends to fascinate me. One part of the world living a relatively placid existence, with nights spent in quiet, without dreams; and the other, its counterpart, having to sift through dreams nightmares in order to send feedback. And the remnants, what nobody wants, the pollution born from human minds, which just goes… somewhere else. Although the explanations weren’t too easy to follow at first, soon they made sense.
Another thing I liked was how the “mysterious boy” didn’t end up as the mandatory love interest, the one that always ends up trampling over the plot in typical YA novels, whether their genre is actually romance or not. It was quite refreshing, and I can only hope that the world and the stakes presented by the “dream engine” will not fall prey to “luuuurve” in the next volume. There’s enough going in without giving in to trends. So, authors, thank you for sticking to the weird science and dreams and contraptions here.
However, as I was reading, I kept feeling that a lot of things often got rehashed and repeated more than necessary—that some trimming would’ve been in order. It took a long time for what I thought would be the plot to unfurl, and while Eila’s hesitation and questioning herself was totally understandable, it still looked to me like beating around the bush, instead of helping flesh out her character as well as others. In the end, Cora, Daw, Levi (for a few minutes, I couldn’t even remember his name, even though I’ve just finished reading the book… that’s how much an impression he made on me), all the others, were more shades than actual people. Eila was the most developed of all, yet her running in circles in her mind kept her at a basic level: I still don’t know what she likes and dislikes, for instance. I think this is the kind of plot where less time should’ve been spent on introspection, and more on subplots (no need for complex ones: simple things such as more than just Atwell confronting Eila after dinner, or someone realising she wasn’t with Cora every evening, etc.).
So much potential, so many endless possibilities, yet never truly explored...
The world itself, albeit interesting, also suffers from the “pocket universe syndrome”, in that the idea behind its foundations is great, but it seems really, really tiny, no more than a city and some land around it. It could be an island, for what it’s worth, completely isolated, and I didn’t get the feeling of a “real” world, for all its talks of airships and pilots bringing goods from other areas. How far is Stensue from Waldron’s Gate? Is Pavilion only under the latter, or does it extend everywhere? Are there other Pavilions under other towns? And so on.
Conclusion: despite finding quite a few likeable elements in there, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I may or may not pick the second book someday, to see if the potential of this series is going to be properly exploited; right now, though, I really don’t know.