Dreamweaver is the last installment in C. S. Friedman's The Dreamwalker Chronicles. The series was originally meant to be comprised of more books, but the author elected to wrap things up and make this a trilogy while writing the second volume. Based on Dreamwalker, it was evident that this was a series brimming with potential. Upping her game in Dreamseeker, the second installment, Friedman promised a good finale to come. And I'm pleased to report that it's pretty much mission accomplished for the author!
And although Dreamweaver closes the show in satisfying fashion, it remains thoroughly YA in style and tone. As such, like its predecessors, it is a world away from the dark science fiction and fantasy series/novels Friedman has become renowned for. Which means that this one is only for those readers who have enjoyed the first two volumes. Those who have found these YA titles offputting will find nothing in Dreamweaver to help change their opinion regarding The Dreamwalker Chronicles as a whole. Yet they can rejoice, for Friedman announced last year that her next work will be set in the same universe as the novel This Alien Shore!
Here's the blurb:
When Jessica Drake learned that her DNA didn’t match that of her parents, she had no idea that investigating her true heritage would put her family’s lives in danger, and ultimately force her to cross into another world. There, in an alternate Earth dominated by individuals with frightening mental powers called Gifts, Jessica learned of a curse within her blood, one so terrifying that all who possessed it were destroyed on sight. For she is a Dreamwalker, and the same dark Gift that allows her to enter the dreams of others will eventually destroy her mind and spread insanity to all around her. Now the deadly wraiths known as reapers, created to hunt down the last Dreamwalkers, are starting to target her family. In order to destroy them she must seek out a mysterious shapeshifting tower where the secret of the reapers’ creation—and her own Dreamwalker heritage—can be found. Joining forces once more with the ex-Shadow Isaac and loremaster Sebastian, she travels to the Badlands, a region on the alternate Earth from which no traveler has ever returned. But her efforts to unlock the secrets of the past will soon ignite the flames of an ancient war, as the deadand the undead gather to fight their final battle against the Dreamwalkers—with Jessica and Isaac on the front lines, and the fate of her entire homeworld at stake.
Worldbuilding has always been an aspect in which Friedman shines. And yet, by specifically trying to write something less dark and complex, I felt that there was a certain lack in that facet of her writing when I first read Dreamwalker. The potential for more complexity and more darkness was definitely there, no question. C. S. Friedman certainly upped her game in the second volume and, as was her objective, said complexity and darkness did build up. Isaac's storyline, in particular, added more depth to this tale. Dreamweaver unveils the truth about the Dreamwalkers and the Shadows and what led to the destruction of the former. But considering that these secrets were probably meant to be unveiled gradually over the course of a number of installments, it felt a bit rushed to get all these revelations within the bounds of a single novel.
I felt that characterization was an issue in the second volume. In Dreamwalker, Jessica Drake's point of view shared the spotlight with her brother Tommy, as well as her friends Rita, Devon, and Isaac. In my opinion, having such a well-balanced perspective helped move the tale forward and definitely made for a more enjoyable reading experience. Understandably, the plot has its own demands and Dreamseeker was mostly told from the POVs of Jesse and Isaac. Both of them are well-drawn, three-dimensional characters that remain true to themselves. It's just that on their own, when they must carry the weight of the entire tale on their shoulders, independently they're not as compelling protagonists as they were as part of a collective unit. The bulk of Dreamweaver is once again told from Jesse and Isaac's perspectives. Probably due to the fact that half of the novel focuses on the endgame of the series, I found their points of view more interesting this time around. Alia Morgana occasionally gets a POV chapter, as her machinations land her in a precarious position. The same goes for Sebastian Hayes, who remains the most captivating character of this trilogy. There are a few more POVS spread throughout the book, but this remains Jesse and Isaac's story for the most part. It would have been nice to get Ahota's perspective, as she was by far the most fascinating character they met in the Badlands.
In terms of rhythm, unlike Dreamseeker, this final volume is as fast-moving as Dreamwalker. Especially once they venture into the Badlands in search of the Dreamwalkers' shape-shifting tower. As I mentioned, some of these revelations were likely meant to be explored over the course of a few books, so wrapping everything up in this one made for an endgame that sometimes felt a bit rushed. Still, even if a few plotlines got resolved rapidly and led to an ending that was a little too neatly done for my taste, Dreamweaver brings this series to a satisfying conclusion. The door is left open for potential sequels, but Friedman ties up all the loose ends.
Writing the Magister trilogy took a lot out of C. S. Friedman and she needed a much-deserved break from that sort of thing. That series was by far her most densely written, aggressively dark, and adult-themed work, and it took six years of her life to complete. Hence, Friedman wanted to write something shorter, something more linear, with a plot that wasn't as convoluted, with a much faster pace. Something that her younger fans could relate to a bit more. And yet, she also wanted to write something her adult fans would enjoy as well. Whether or not The Dreamwalker Chronicles managed to do just that depends on who you ask. I understand why SFF authors like Joe Abercrombie and C. S. Friedman would want to try to tap into that lucrative YA market. They are not the first and they won't be the last. I for one am happy that they have both reached the end of their YA series and will now concentrate on adult-oriented speculative fiction works. That's how they each made a name for themselves and the genre needs such authors writing at the top of their game.