Laura and her cousin Rose come from a talented family of Dreamhunters. These men and women are among the few who are able to enter the Place, a dry, barren land somehow next to and in the middle of their real world. Some of those who enter the Place “catch” dreams and come back to “perform” them for other citizens of their land. The dreams are performed either in large “opera” houses where everyone sleeps in fancy pajamas in individual suites, or to small groups or individuals, or even at hospitals. Dreams may be strictly entertaining or relaxing, such as riding along on the rapids of a “wild river” or going to a pleasant beach. Laura’s father’s famous “Convalescent” dream soothes and refreshes all who experience it and has helped in the healing process of those who are sick or injured. But other dreams are used — more secretly — for other, darker ends.
Laura’s father and Rose’s mother are particularly talented and famous. When the girls turn 15, they have the opportunity to “Try” to find out if they can enter the Place as well. But the members of their close family have different opinions on whether this will be a good thing. Laura’s father, in particular, has had reservations in part because of his increasingly disturbing dreams. His dead wife’s brother, a longtime friend, and his dreamhunter wife, Rose’s mother, are concerned for him because he has been acting strangely. But right at the time when it is time for Laura to Try, he is anxious for her to be able to enter — and even carry on the mysterious work he has started.
This absorbing novel has a mysterious feel to it, a tinge of dark foreboding hanging over it. Laura and Rose are as close as friends can be and enjoy a close family. But the strange and unexplained events that unfold make them both wonder how they can stay as close in the midst of the turmoil and change. Dreamhunter is set in 1906 and evokes all the customs and feel of that era, while placing the setting in a slightly different place and time. As a result, it has, well, an almost dreamlike quality to it, an other-worldliness.
Dreamhunter is part of a “duet,” and this first of the set has almost no conclusion. More questions arise over the course of the book than are answered, and readers will absolutely have to read the second one. But as well-written as this novel is, almost no one will want to stop here.
Rated: Moderate. There are uses of mild language and a few uses of moderate language. There are some mildly disturbing scenes, primarily from the “nightmares” that Laura and her father catch. There are also some oblique crude sexual references when different types of dreams are described, but they are very minimal and would very likely go unnoticed by some young readers. The book might be just a mild for adult readers.