Knox, the author of The Vintner's Luck, turns her hand to YA fantasy. Seeing her name on the cover, I had to buy it, and now I have to wait for the second in the Duet. Oh, this is a wonderful book!
The setting is a world more than a little like ours, in the year 1905. They have Jesus, The Mill on the Floss, rifles, movie cameras. But in this world, Lazarus was a saint and wrote a Gospel: they celebrate his saint's day in spring. And in this world, in a country called Southland that was settled by refugees from a sinking island, there's the Place.
The Place is a fold in space, a polder (if I'm using the terminology correctly), a pocket universe. Not everyone can enter it: 'normal' people just walk through another tract of countryside. But to the Dreamcatchers, the Place -- marked with boundaries and warning notices -- is a limitless desert with a featureless white sky, with ruins, without water ... and with location-specific dreams. If you lie down at A18, you dream 'Starry Beach'. And the best Dreamcatchers can then go and, literally, sleep with their audience and share the dream with them. Some dreams are therapeutic, some are adventures, some are romances ... (In proof that this book is not intended for the very young, there's a dream on the map named 'Big Member', and a passage describing a senior Dreamcatcher devoutly hoping that none of the new intake will ask about it.)
The Place hasn't been there for ever. Tziga Hame discovered it (by falling into it) twenty years before the opening of the novel. He and his sister-in-law, Grace Tiebold, are amongst the most esteemed Dreamcatchers. Their daughters, Laura and Rose, are set to Try -- that is, to find out whether they, too, can reach the Place.
But not everything is as idyllic as it seems.
I am not going to write about the plot: it's beautiful and complex and this is the first part of a two-part tale. It contains golems, romance, exploitation, new and delicious sweets (no, not chocolate frogs), a boy racing a schooner along a sandy peninsula washed by the ocean, love and betrayal and corrupt politicians. If this is not your sort of thing, move along ...
"The boy climbed up onto the eucalyptus stump. He got sap on his hands and feet. He stood on the stump and looked about. The sunset was so violent that it should have been making a noise. The light cast the shadows of the far hills upward across the sky, bristling rays of opaque blue in a huge, bright, slicing pane of orange light."
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place