Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Dream Eater

Title: Dream Eater (A Portland Hafu novel)
Author: K. Bird Lincoln
Page Count: 219
My Rating3.5 TURTLES: A very enjoyable read, I recommend you check it out.
*I got this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples' dreams.

Her whole life she's avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact--a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee--transfers flashes of that person's most intense dreams. It's enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi's getting her act together. No matter what, this time she's going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it's not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Altzheimer's disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor's hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi's father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

I got an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley a while back, and now that it has been out a while I have finally gotten to reviewing it. I got pretty far behind in reviewing this semester, but my winter break has given me some time to slowly get caught up. I became aware of Dream Eater through the publisher’s newsletter, which I have been on for a while, and the premise really grabbed me. I love fantasy books that use real mythology as its starting point (Rick Riordan remains one of my favorite authors) and it is set in my hometown of Portland, so I was intrigued by the setting too. Also, the cover is gorgeous and badass.

I really liked how the mythology was used in the book. Most of it that is in the book is Japanese and Native American with some Middle Eastern mythology woven in, but I got the feeling that the myths in this world go far beyond that. I loved how the different powers of the different creatures manifested and how well thought out the politics of the “Kind” were. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series, but there certainly feels like there is a lot more to explore here.

Another thing I really appreciated about the book was its diverse cast of characters. The main character, Koi, and her sister, for example, are of Japanese and Hawaiian descent and the two other most important characters are also Japanese. I checked my Goodreads page just now, and out of the 62 books I read this year, only one other book had its main character be of Asian descent and just a few more had important secondary characters or authors of Asian descent, and while I don’t have exact numbers, I know my sample of books is indicative of a larger pattern in publishing. As many of you likely know, there is a huge lack of non-white main characters in Young Adult/New Adult novels. Thankfully, this has been changing somewhat recently, but many groups like Asian-Americans are still very underrepresented. As someone who knows how important being able to see aspects of one’s identity in media is, I really appreciated the representation going on in this book, particularly since the novel highlights Koi’s cultural heritage and makes it important to who she is as a character. I hope to read many more books like Dream Eater in that sense in the future.

Another thing I really liked about the book was how well thought out the setting was. I knew the author really had a map of the city in her head (or in front of her on Google Maps) as she was writing. It was especially engaging since, as a native Portlander, I have been to and could picture many of the places in the book.

Having said that, there were some aspects of how the setting was portrayed that I wasn’t a huge fan of. In a way, it felt like the book really wanted us to know how well it knew Portland, so there is a lot of namedropping of places in Portland. A lot. And while I might know that Uwajimaya is a super awesome Asian superstore, the vast majority of people reading this book will not and might be confused when Koi mentioned that she goes there sometimes and gives no context for what it is. This odd specific namedropping didn’t just happen with places. Koi mentions several times that she is craving chocolate or that chocolate will improve her mood, but instead of saying “chocolate,” each time she says a different specific bar from a specific brand. Sometimes the bar name would be five or six words long, and it felt like more specificity than I needed for a hypothetical candy the character thinks in passing she is in the mood for.

There were a few other instances where the novel went a little overboard with making sure we knew it took place in Portland. For one, it kept telling us. The weather wasn’t just the weather, it was the “Portland weather” which, to some extent could have made sense since many Portlanders do think of rainy/misty weather as “Portland weather,” but there were other things labelled as “Portland” that didn’t make sense. For example if Koi falls, she lands on “Portland moss.” There is no such thing, there is moss that is in Portland, but at this point in the story, we already know where we are, and the repeated reminders felt like overkill.

Also, on top of the namedropping and the unnecessary labelling of things as “Portland”, Koi apparently can’t even think metaphorically in a way that isn’t Portland related. Instead of saying “I was so tired I felt like I had run a marathon” or something else more general or widely used, she said “I felt like I had swum the length of the Willamette” (which is a river that runs through Portland, though I don’t think the book ever mentions that) or “I felt like I had just run the Portland Hood to Coast marathon.” First of all, it isn’t even a marathon, it’s a 200 mile relay race from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast, second of all, it isn’t the “Portland” Hood to Coast, it’s just Hood to Coast. I think the route might go through Portland, but again – 200 miles, Portland is just a stop along the way. Also, the only two TV shows that are mentioned in the book are Leverage and Grimm – both of which are filmed in, you guessed it, Portland.

So while to some extent I really enjoyed being able to completely picture where every place in the story was, at times I also felt a bit like rolling my eyes at the overkill of it sometimes. I’d be curious to see if it is as obvious to someone who does not know the city as well or if it was just me.

While this book had its ups and downs for me, overall I did like it and would likely read the sequel should one come out. If you are a fan of New Adult, mythology, or urban fantasy, I suggest you give it a go.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments, and I will definitely read anything that is left here. Don't be shy, I'd love to know what you are thinking!