After thoroughly enjoying Dreams Underfoot, Charles de Lint’s first book of Newford short stories, I wanted to keep reading through the series. According to the FAQ on his site, the next two were horror. I don’t do horror, so I jumped those and came to The Dreaming Place. This is a YA title that features sixteen year old cousins and none of the myriad characters I met in Dreams Underfoot, so it was a little different from what I was expecting.
Nina, an everyday, normal teenager is convinced her Goth cousin, Ash, is trying to put a spell on her. Something is making her dream she is trapped inside animals and Ashley is always reading occult books and causing trouble with her attitude. But Ash is simply trying to deal with the death of her mother and subsequent rejection by her father that sent her to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin three years ago. When she learns a winter spirit, or manitou, is hunting Nina, despite their differences, she does her best to help. If she is reluctant at first, she learns her strength and finds some self-worth and healing in the process.
I wasn’t as taken with this book as I was with Dreams Underfoot. It’s a good, solid YA title that is well worth reading, but it didn’t have that extra something the previous book did. I don’t really think it is a YA vs. adult novel thing, as I enjoy both kinds of books and one of my favourite books of all time, The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip is YA. However, for all that this was a full length novel rather than short stories, Nina and Ash both remained ciphers to a degree, and this meant I was interested in their tale but not mesmerised by it. I was much more enchanted by the adults in Dreams Underfoot.
The chapters alternate between Nina’s POV and Ash’s, yet I felt the book was more about Ash than Nina. It is Nina that is on a search for her totem animal (even if it was instigated by the manitou and not NIna herself), but it is Ash that goes on a voyage of self-discovery through the Otherworld. Nina finds her totem animal, Ash finds herself and the book comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
I feel like I’m damning the book with faint praise here, but I find I really don’t have much to say about it. It certainly isn’t a bad book – I don’t feel the need to go into details about what is wrong with it, because there isn’t really anything wrong with it. I just don’t feel inspired to jump up and down and insist this is an amazing must-read either. It’s simply a book, average or a little above that is worth the time to read, but isn’t something to rave about.
The Dreaming Place
Charles de Lint
Newford Novels, Book 4