I reviewed both the audiobook and print copies of this book. Thank you to Netgalley and Quill Tree Books for gifting me an ARC of these items in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.
Title: Dreams Lie Beneath
Author: Rebecca Ross
Genre: YA Fantasy (this is firmly YA and not NA)
Synopsis: A curse plagues the realm of Azenor—during each new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians, who serve as territory wardens, stand between people and their worst dreams. Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians challenge her, she is unwittingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she secretly gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets begin to rise. Clementine must unite with her rival to fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn.
My Review: I don’t give a lot of 5-star ratings – but this book was everything I hoped it would be. It’s going into my top 5 books read in 2021 list, and is one I will likely pick up in print when it’s available. It’s a book that I wish I had in my library as a teenager because it is full of so many great characters and moments that will stick with the reader far into the future (which I feel is the mark of a great read). So yes, 5/5 stars for this one!
First off, the world the author has created is one I want to step into. The idea that dreams can come to life and haunt the streets and the town’s inhabitants, kept only at bay by the diligence of the town wardens was a perfect introduction into the magical world these characters inhabit. Ross creates a beautifully seamless marriage of a story that feels both contemporary and like a retelling (in a very good way) of a fairy tale you’ve heard before. The back story of why nightmares come to life on the night of the new moon, and the integration of things like the Wraiths card game into the story drew me in and kept me immersed in this lushly told story.
Secondly, Clementine Madigan is a girl I’d like to be. Smart, a little bit too hasty to act sometimes, strong-willed and tenacious, she’s got all the things in a heroine you want to cheer for. I loved that she wasn’t either so perfect that she became unbelievable nor so broken that it was hard to find a redeeming quality to her. She is, in fact, a well-rounded person, complete with flaws and questionable decisions, but who ultimately follows her heart (and that is not as easy as it sounds since there’s a plot twist involving sacrifice and giving away part of her heart she must find again). The supporting characters in the book are all strongly developed individuals, perhaps with the exception of her mother, although this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. There is a YA-level romance with an enemies to friends with a bit more arc, and it was fun to watch this one develop.
The world of magic Ross has created fits seamlessly into this story, along with some excellent sword-play and adventure. The integration of little details of magic into Clementine’s world (magic armor anyone?) and how she channels her own magical skills into practical use were some of my favorite passages in the book. Beautifully written prose, exciting suspensful moments when the nightmares come to life, a backstory that would make a fantastic read by itself, and relatable characters all made this one a wonderful read. Although this is a standalone, I’d happily revisit this world that Ross has created (and plan to pick up her other books based on the quality of the writing in this one).
(As a side note, MAJOR points for the Annie Stegg artwork on the cover. She’s one of my favorite artists and this beautiful piece really captures the feel of the story.)