Author: Joanna Chambers
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 223 Pages
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Blurb: When the sun goes down, their passion awakens…and so do their nightmares.
Centuries ago, a man with Bryn Llewelyn’s dreamwalking ability would have been a shaman or a priest. In this time, he’s merely exhausted, strung out on too much caffeine and too little sleep.
Sleep means descent into Somnus—an alternate reality constructed of the combined dreaming consciousness of ordinary humans. A place he’d rather avoid. Trouble is, his powers don’t include the ability to go without sleep indefinitely. At some point his eyes close…and his nightmare begins.
As a teen, the treatment that cured Laszlo Grimm’s sleep disorder stole his dreams—and his ability to feel emotion. Petrified of needing more “treatment”, he clings to familiar rituals and habits. But lately his nightly terror has returned, and when he meets Bryn in the real world, the man seems hauntingly familiar. Not only that, Bryn awakens feelings in Laszlo for the first time in years…
Slowly Bryn and Laszlo realize they are both unknowing pawns in a plan of unspeakable evil. And that their powerful attraction could release the destinies locked within them—or be the instrument of their doom.
Review: As a brand new reader of Joanna Chambers’ work, I’ll confess I claimed this book for review based upon the title alone. The idea of a novel set in part in the subconscious of its characters intrigued me like no story premise has in quite a long time. There is an interesting juxtaposition in the plot, between what is real and what is not, this being that whether dreaming or awake, everything is real. And it’s this concept of duality—that Somnus and the waking world exist in a parallel separated only by the suspension of consciousness—that drew me in and gave me one nerd-girl moment after another. If the author doesn’t know a thing or two about synchronicity, and alchemy and its developmental phases, then this entire book is nothing but one giant synchronous event, but I’m going to go with the belief that the crafting of this storyline was a bit more deliberate than that.
The art of alchemy, in its simplest terms, was the desire to transform something of little value into something of worth, which, in the case of this story, is Bryn Llewellyn and what he comes to mean to Laszlo Grimm (speaking of literary alchemists, not to mention it bringing to mind JK Rowling’s Grim and the omen of death). The synchronicity of this story is, in its simplest terms, the concept that there is no such thing as a random coincidence. In other words, there is a meaningful connectedness to everything that occurs seemingly by accident, in either Somnus or the “real world,” and the author weaves this concept into the story when Bryn and Lazslo—two men on opposite ends of the social spectrum—meet first in Somnus then in reality, when Bryn must figure out a way to find Lazslo in the waking world and they manage, in a twist of luck and fate and significant coincidence, to end up in the same place at the same time.
The relationship between these two men is one complicated by the machinations of a monster in both the real and dream worlds (though the real world monster is of the human variety), and the author teases out very few details as to what this particular dream being is, something I hope will be further explored as the series continues, but did appeal to my love of fairy tales. Both Bryn and Laszlo are in need of rescuing from the monster in the Tower, a fact that makes them necessary to each other in a significant way and adds some dimension to the romantic spin of their meeting.
Both of these men have powers in Somnus that we’re only just given a glimpse of, which I’m sure will be given more attention as the series unfolds, the next installment being set up before the end of The Dream Alchemist for two significant role players–Dylan Black and Finn Sharp–and it’s a book I can’t wait to get hold of based on the hook the author baited at the end of Book One. If I have any one niggle about this book, it’s that the four month time leap at the end was made at the expense of growing Bryn and Laszlo’s relationship for us readers. I was willing and able to buy into the immediacy of their connection to each other, a bond that seems forged in the intimacy of the eyes being the windows to the soul theme, but I’d have loved to have been offered a bit more than was given in those four lost months.
The Dream Alchemist earns its 4.5 stars based on its originality, as well as for making me read outside the box, something that isn’t always easy to come by in romantic fiction. I liked the dramatic tension the author built into Bryn and Laszlo’s bond. In spite of my fussing about the relationship gaps, I found I couldn’t put this one down, which is always a good benchmark for a book’s recommendability. Recommendableness? Whatever. You get the picture.
You can buy The Dream Alchemist (Somnus: Book One) here: