REVIEW: The Dream Alchemist (Somnus, book 1) by Joanna Chambers
When the sun goes down, their passion awakens…and so do their nightmares.
Somnus, Book 1
Centuries ago, a man with Bryn Llewelyn’s dreamwalking ability would have been a shaman or a priest. In this time, he’s merely exhausted, strung out on too much caffeine and too little sleep.
Sleep means descent into Somnus—an alternate reality constructed of the combined dreaming consciousness of ordinary humans. A place he’d rather avoid. Trouble is, his powers don’t include the ability to go without sleep indefinitely. At some point his eyes close…and his nightmare begins.
As a teen, the treatment that cured Laszlo Grimm’s sleep disorder stole his dreams—and his ability to feel emotion. Petrified of needing more “treatment”, he clings to familiar rituals and habits. But lately his nightly terror has returned, and when he meets Bryn in the real world, the man seems hauntingly familiar. Not only that, Bryn awakens feelings in Laszlo for the first time in years…
Slowly Bryn and Laszlo realize they are both unknowing pawns in a plan of unspeakable evil. And that their powerful attraction could release the destinies locked within them—or be the instrument of their doom.
Warning: Contains the stuff of your lustiest dreams—and most frightening nightmares. You may want to read with a candle at the ready…just in case the lights go out.
Dear Joanna Chambers,
I requested this book for review several months ago when I was still requesting ARCs. I really wanted to write this review as quickly as possible; however our plans do not always turn into reality. If reviewers were to write lists of the reviews they struggled the most with this year, your book would certainly be on the top of mine. I read the book shortly after I requested it, but the review just wouldn’t appear, so I had to put it down and come back to it again. The main reason I struggled was because I just could not figure out what in the book felt off for me. It is not as if the fact that you are writing in a different genre bothered me. I loved your historical romance series “Enlightened”, but I was beyond pleased when I saw that you had written a fantasy, because I love fantasy/scifi as much as I love historical romances (if not more – I can never decide which m/m subgenre I love more, historical, fantasy or mystery).
As the blurb states, Bryn is a dreamwalker and he meets Laszlo in Somnus, an alternate reality/world which was built by people who come to it in their dreams. Some people are able to retain their memories and have a conscious existence while they are on Somnus, and Bryn is one of those people. Other people also come to Somnus in their dreams, but they won’t recognize anybody while they are there and won’t have any memories about what they do while dreaming. Dreamwalkers call them drones, and when Bryn meets Laszlo for the first time he thinks that Laszlo is a drone. When we meet Bryn for the first time, he is trying to stay awake for days because lately when he appears on Somnus he is being called to one of the darkest places there – the Tower and Shades (manifestations of people’s nightmares) are trying to lure him in the Tower. Eventually, he of course loses the battle to stay awake and he is back on Somnus.
The Dreamwalkers who come often know each other and help each other, and they are trying to train kids who first appear on Somnus to have better control of their abilities. So when Bryn returns, he is surprised that Dylan Black, one of the Dreamwalkers who was often unpleasant to him, wants to have a chat with him. It eventually comes out that the reason Dylan wants to talk is because he wants to share information with Bryn about his new power (or should I say the power Bryn never knew he had), which had manifested a little in the past but is likely to get stronger. I will let you find out what new powers Bryn learns he has and how he learns to control them. The point is that Dylan is also able to shed some light as to why Bryn is being called to the Tower and what evil is lurking there.
When Bryn shifts to the Tower again, that’s where he meets Laszlo, who attacks him. Eventually Bryn and Laszlo find each other in the real world, where Laszlo is not very willing to hear that he is able to go to Somnus in his dreams, and as Dylan suspects almost right away, he is not a drone but a dreamwalker. Laszlo is a successful businessman now, but somebody did a number on him in his youth. His ability to dream that way was treated as an illness, so it is no wonder that Laszlo initially is not a very eager listener of what Bryn is trying to tell him.
I liked both men a lot – Bryn just seemed like a guy who tried to deal with a lot of stuff in his regular life and on Somnus. He seemed like a hard worker to me, someone who, while he had adjusted to being a dreamwalker, was having a tough time accepting that he is way above average even amongst people with supernatural abilities. Of course Laszlo was traumatized after what he had been through, but I loved that he made a life for himself and also tried to deal the best he could. And when I typed that last sentence, I realized that “trying to deal with what life throws at you and not avoiding it for too long” is what these guys have in common. They just felt so incredibly brave to me – which of course comes in handy because at Somnus they have to battle an epic evil. I thought their attraction was fast, but I did not have much trouble accepting it.
After thinking this over again, I decided that what I was not happy with in the novel was the world building. Oh, it was detailed and interesting enough, but for me when a fantasy story is using some kind of a dream world as a setting, it needs to go the extra mile to make it believable. Let me try to elaborate. When a story builds a new world I want to see the rules it operates under at some point, and I want to see an internal consistency in the world building. In this story I had a nagging feeling that at any given time *anything* could change in the world, just because. After all, it is said that Somnus is built by drones (whether this is completely true remains to be seen) and drones do not subsequently realize what they have built during their dreams, and so it constantly changes. Does this mean it could be completely destroyed by drones/dreamwalkers, whoever? I guess I felt like I was not on solid ground when I was visiting this world.
I also thought that villain was extremely one- note dark.
The romance was fine, as I said it was a bit fast for me, but the guys were very likeable and in dire circumstances, so I could swallow that I guess.
It ends with a happy ending for them, and from what I read apparently a new couple will get their romance in the second book. I suspect Dylan will be one half of the couple but I don’t know for certain, and the underlying arch of fighting evil on Somnus will continue.