ARC Review: The Waking Dreamer by J.E. Alexander

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 343
Format: ARC ebook
Publication Date: September 22, 2013

Summary: Seventeen-year-old orphan Emmett Brennan remembers nothing of his past—not the boiler room in which his needle-ravaged mother gave birth to him, nor the Druids who tenderly delivered him. He can’t remember the cabal-summoned Revenant that clawed itself from shadow to hunt him, or why his mystical midwives hid him from the necromantic creature. Approaching adulthood, he is unaware of the dark forces that still search for him or the mysterious sentinels who secretly protect him, but on the eve of his eighteenth birthday that will change. The Revenants will find him. Only the young woman from his dreams can help him confront all he was once made to forget. Together, they will brave the nightmarish landscape Emmett’s waking world will soon become.

Review: Writing this review has felt a bit like ripping a bandaid off. I’ve been putting it off but it’s not going to be any less painful so I might as well do it and get it over with. “I didn’t like this book” doesn’t even scrape the surface of my vast, shimmering disappointment of this book. The first portion was really good. Emmett, the main character, was interesting and full of pop culture references that made connecting the strange, supernatural subworld to our real world a bit easier. The first scene is of his birth and it’s so well-written that it blew my mind. However, as soon as he gets confronted with his first enemy, things go sharply downhill.

The main problem with this book for me was the ridiculous pacing (or lack thereof) and the gratuitous violence. I’m not opposed to violence in books and I do find it necessary sometimes. I have no problem reading it and I enjoy a well-written and well-planned action scene, no matter how jolting it is. This book was nonstop fighting, death, and gore. The entire plot is based around violence, but not to any sort of point. There’s supposed to be some deeper story about Emmett’s connection to this community that fights against these supernatural creatures but that is completely washed over by poorly-timed fight scenes. Each fight scene lapses into short, badly-written “development scenes” that only ever result in the characters finding themselves in a new fight scene. The moments between don’t build the characters or explain anything. Besides being annoyed and a little grossed out by all the violence, I was confused. It was an unpleasant combination and I almost didn’t finish the book.

Character development was also largely nonexistent. One of the main characters (supposedly) is Amala and without giving anything away, she is not developed at all in the story but yet, it’s clear that by the end, we are supposed to like her. I don’t buy into characters like that. The author has to work to make the audience enjoy or hate or feel something about the character and Alexander only really did that with Emmett (and even that fell apart) and Kieran, the only other character who has something of a personality that is unfortunately ultimately subjugated beneath the violence. **MINOR SPOILER** Most of the characters the reader is introduced to are immediately killed or disappear as soon as they are introduced. Their deaths are disgusting but not emotional, leaving the reader feel a sense of pointlessness to any of the new characters who get introduced. **END SPOILER**

Overall, this book completely missed the mark for me. Not one thing from the plot to the characters were well-developed and at the end, I just felt disappointed, confused, and extremely disturbed by all the unnecessary violence.

Advertisements