Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lair of Dreams

Lair of Dreams
by Libba Bray
Recommended Ages: 14+

In Book 2 of the "Diviners" series, the author of A Great and Terrible Beauty, The Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing continues her saga about young adults with paranormal powers in the Prohibition period. It features a party girl, radio personality and "sweetheart seer" named Evie, who is torn between two boys (always a great place to start) and who has the ability to read people's past from objects they touched (which I bet you didn't see coming). There's also a studly cyborg named Jericho, a ne'er-do-well named Sam who can hypnotize people not to see him, a Ziegfeld Follies chorus-line girl named Theta who can set fires with her bare hands, a young Harlem poet named Memphis who has the healing touch, a couple of dream-walkers from widely different backgrounds, and of course how would they get along without dear, unpowered Mabel? Between them, if they could only get their act together, they might be able to stop an evil spirit that is preying on people, using their dreams to suck the life-force out of them.

I'll be blunt and to the point. I would only give this book three stars out of five. Yes, the jazzy atmosphere of the flapper era is, indeed, the elephant's eyebrows (Star 1). The looming threat of the Man in the Stovepipe Hat and the ghostly jiggery-pokery that causes an outbreak of sleeping sickness makes for some truly yummy horror and suspense (Star 2). And some of the main characters show real promise as heroes of an entertaining fantasy franchise (Star 3).

But this book, like the one before it (The Diviners), keeps so many plates spinning, so many plot lines bowling along separately and each at a none-too-rapid pace, and takes so long getting to the always-anticipated point where the hero characters recognize what the mystery is and start working together to solve it, that I for one became exasperated by about one-third of the way through it, and continued reading in a state of exasperation until exasperatingly close to the end. So exasperated was I, and if you're getting exasperated with my use of the word exasperated that's just tough because I want you to know how I felt, so exasperated was I (says I) that I consider it generous of me to knock off only one star for this. I think there are writers who would have made a virtue of this problem, in the form of suspense, but I don't think Libba Bray was one of them in this instance.

Also like The Diviners, this book finally whips up a goodly head of dramatic energy at its climax, only to let it dissipate in anticlimactic fashion with an unnecessarily long coda. So it ends up being another one of those books that made me want to scream, "Isn't this [expletive deleted] book over yet?" - which is remarkable, considering how few pages ago I was biting back an oath to the effect, "Is this story ever going to get moving?" Hence the second subtracted star.

Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning there is a third book in this series, titled Before the Devil Breaks You. Bray is also the author of Going Bovine, Beauty Queens, and It's Just a Jump to the Left.

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