If you’re looking for last week’s giveaway winners for Stina Leicht’s and Blue Skies from Pain, click here.
Today, we’re starting a new book in our reads and commentary of female authors in speculative fiction. These reviews are geared toward readers for the fun and writers so they might learn techniques from the pros. Today, we begin Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland.
I selected this book for a number of reasons. First of all, K.M. Weiland is one of my favorite authors to follow online. Her blog and tweets are full of great writing tips, and she’s very nice and personable. Additionally, Dreamlander is new on the market. It came out at the end of last year and is Weiland’s first fantasy, but by no means her first novel. And finally, I found the premise and first few chapters intriguing. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
"What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world?
Every night, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston's dreams. Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night, she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects--or wants--is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he's gone spectacularly bonkers or the possibility that he's just been let in on the secret of the ages.
Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history--and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into a battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true."
So sit back and enjoy the first few chapters of Dreamlander. For other reads of books I’ve done, authors such as Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Stina Leicht, click here.
Chris Redston endures terrifying, visceral dreams every night. The past three nights, a woman has shot him in the head while he tried to flee, and this last night, she told him not to come. But they’re just dreams, he insists. However, when he wakes, someone has taped a note to his window stating that they know of the dreams, which he has never told anyone about, and that he must stay away from the shrink. As Chris goes out to bail his dad out of jail, he receives a call on his personal cell phone stating the same message, a disturbance which leaves chills running down his neck.
Reader Comments: I love Weiland’s descriptions. They are so visceral. And I love the problems she already setting up for Chris. This world he’s supposed to cross into has a woman ready to shoot him in the head. Watching how he’ll escape that will be impressive. Plus, he’s very much alone. The woman plus the loneliness suggests romance. Fantasy plus romance equals my favorite type of story.
Writer Comments: Take a look at this description Weiland gives of the woman who shoots Chris in the head. It’s lovely, extremely well done, and a great way to use description to characterize:
“From out of the mist in front of him rode a woman on a black horse, rifle in hand. She was tall in the saddle, the flow of her white gown accentuating her height. A braided crown of mahogany hair piled atop her head, studded with matching white blossoms. She drew the horse to a halt. It slid, hind fetlocks buried in the grass, then reared. With her hand on its shoulder, she quieted it. And then she looked up.
She didn’t smile, didn’t even blink an acknowledgement. She just stared at him, the thunderstorm blue of her eyes never flinched from his face. The sharp angle of her jaw above her neck and the straight slant of her nose exuded a survivor’s fierceness. But it couldn’t mask something softer and more vulnerable, something almost desperate, in the compression of her mouth.”
This description works so well because it include movement. This woman interacts with her world, and her characteristics become apparent through that action. She isn’t just standing in front of a mirror for us to admire. And it is full of contradictions that suggest she is a complex, troubled, and fascinating characters. She is fierce but soft. She is gentle with her horse, yet we know that she keeps shooting our hero, Chris, in the head with a rifle. Plus, Weiland chooses her adjectives carefully. They are not only evocative, but they imply the character of the woman they describe.
In the other world, Allara, princess of Lael and Searcher of the Gifted, one in each generation who crosses the worlds into hers, comes to ask the Garowai, a sort of lion-dragon-angel-thing how she can stop this new gifted from coming. Her last gifted, Harrison Garnett, who crossed the worlds when she was nine and ignorant, betrayed her and tore the world apart with war, and she’s terrified of what this new gifted might bring. Besides that, Mactalde, the man behind the war the gifted brought, prophesied that he could return from the dead. What if it’s true? The Garowai tells Allara that the gifted will come, and she will find him. He might even bring peace, if not for Lael, peace to her. However, she cannot and will not accept the unavoidable destiny the gifted will bring.
Reader Comments: Oh, I love how tormented Allara is. She’s haunted by childhood failures, which she could not have reasonably prevented. She’s terrified, yet from the little I’ve seen, she’s a woman who will do her utmost to fulfill her duty, no matter how she might loath it. It sounds like a delicious combination.
Writer Comments: All fantasy and science fiction writers face a challenge in creating stories in other worlds or imagined times. Somehow, without slowing down the story, they must build a whole new world that the reader can understand and engage with. It’s a major reason why speculative fiction tends to have high word counts than most other genres. Weiland begins her world building in full force in this chapter. However, she adheres to wise principles when it comes to world building.
- She includes details that immediately relate to the present characters and situations.
- She includes information through the narration, description, dialogue, and Allara’s internals. The variety helps prevent dull recitation of facts.
- She laces her explanations of the world with emotion and conflict. These elements make it far more interesting and engaging.
- She breaks up with world building with present action and dialogue.
- She does not include unnecessary detail. She gives us what we need to know now and no more.
On his way to bail his dad out of jail, Chris encounters the man who taped the note to his window, Harrison Garnett, apparently. He is old, mysterious, and a bit volatile. He slips another note in Chris’s pocket. After insisting his dad clean up his life, Chris finds the note with an address and a claim that all can be explained.
Reader Comments: Harrison Garnett, oh dear. From what Allara described of him in the last chapter, he’s bad news. Naturally, he’s probably going to get Chris in all sorts of trouble. Either, he’ll kill Chris, arrange from someone nefarious to get him--maybe this Mactalde--or truly lead him astray.
Writer Comments: At this point, the novel is following two major character arcs. The trick to making multiple character or plot arc work well is to create or find enough connections between them that they can no longer be mutually exclusive. Weiland is beginning to reveal these connections. Not only is Allara the Searcher and Chris the Gifted, they’re both broken people who, it’s hinted, might be the ones to heal each other, and now, they’re both connected by Harrison Garnett. I suspect Weiland will illuminate other ties as the story progresses.