The Waking Dream by Jennifer Ford is a fantasy story of a desert city that has forgotten its history, but history hasn’t forgotten it. Danger from the desert lurks and an ancient and magical ally appears just in time for destiny to catch up. The Commander and Ruler of Illamar and his friend and Captain have no idea what is in store for them when a mysterious messenger starts appearing and disappearing at rather inconvenient times….
I was very excited when I received The Waking Dream for review from Jennifer Ford, and while it was paced a bit slower than I expected, Ford has written a solid fantasy story with a refreshing premise and plot. There are some errors that are typical of indie books, and a few that really should have been fixed, but if you know that you are getting into a slower paced, indie book, then you shouldn’t be disappointed. Also why is there no picture up on Goodreads?!
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Title: The Waking Dream
Author: Jennifer Ford
Genre-ish: Desert Fantasy
Rating: ★★★☆☆- Solid plot, several annoying flaws
Setting: Illamar is an isolated city state in the middle of a vast desert. Illamar has a sister city joined to it, but Rheamyre has been overtaken by gangs and poverty and the citizens of Illarmar long ago gave up their rival city for lost. Illamar relies on caravans for some supplies, but is able to be fairly self-sufficient. This is fortunate since a caravan hasn’t made it to the city in a number of seasons due to strange animal attacks.
Premise: A new gang has started taking over Rheamyre and Illamar’s Commander, Dante, has been hearing rumors of this Rasheim that has so efficiently taken out the other gang leaders. When a mysterious messenger starts appearing to Dante and his Captain, Kerran, both in person and in their dreams, the men become worried about what this Rasheim is actually capable of. Fortunately, things are definitely not all that they appear, and the magic that the messenger woman seems to possess is both very real and very important for the survival of Illamar and Rasheim’s people.
- Few fantasy stories take place in deserts, have you ever realized that? For some reason mystical forests and magical oceans call to fantasy writers, but not Ford! The Waking Dream has a refreshing premise and setting that takes advantage of the isolation and mystical nature of the desert and weaves in a very appropriate style of magic for a nomadic people.
- The perspective switches back and forth between Dante and Kerran and flows fairly well. It is a good opportunity to explain events from both perspectives and Ford is able to generally make it clear who is telling the story when, which is very important for such a shifting story telling technique.
- The two main male characters have very different personalities, which is important since they both have faults that would grate a bit if they were too similar.
- I always appreciate a female character who can kick the boys’ butts!
- The pacing was rather slow. I rarely found myself compelled to keep reading because I had to know what happened next, and found it easy to set down The Waking Dream when I had other things I needed to do, which doesn’t really bode well for a book.
- There were some phrases that should not have been used in a fantasy that is not set in our world. It’s just not believable that these people would say “Okay” and other American idioms that are very clearly based on our culture, which The Waking Dream did not share (unlike urban fantasy, where it is obviously okay to use those phrases).
- Kerran starts off very sexist, and while he does improve and it is fairly realistic that a male character in a high fantasy setting would be sexist, it probably didn’t need to be drilled in so much.
- I didn’t really think the “sexual passion as a fuel for magic” moments were necessary and they didn’t fit with the rest of the magic (which was very much not based on sex in any way).
- The plot of The Waking Dream was rather written rather strangely in a plot arch kind of way. The big battle that everything has led up to was rather anti-climatic and I couldn’t really tell if the romance or the battle were supposed to be the important plot….
I was a little disappointed with The Waking Dream, since the premise was so promising and the magic system was so cool. The pacing was just way too slow and the book definitely needed another round of editing to tighten up the plot, fix the consistency errors and typos and bring the book to the compelling level of writing that it deserves. The Waking Dream is a perfectly pleasant book to pick up when you have time, but it just doesn’t have that wow factor that it could have had. You are probably safe skipping it if the premise doesn’t compel you.