As I mentioned in my review for The Diviners, I saw this on NetGalley and could hardly contain my excitement. I frantically clicked the kindle download button and refreshed my kindle documents until it showed up. It was only after I had it downloaded that I scrolled down to read the rest of the description. “Requests from UK readers only, please” it said. Oops. Sorry, publisher, but it’s Libba Bray and the next Diviners book. I have to read it.
Lair of Dreams starts with a couple of beautiful paragraphs. Buildings can carry the ghosts of the past in their walls and facades, and addressing that in a book where a girl can speak to ghosts was a nice connection. After a brief set-up for the main conflict in this novel, Lair of Dreams picks up where The Diviners left off. Evie is quite happy with her new lifestyle in New York, but not everyone sees it that way. She’s perfectly content with her new role as The Sweetheart Seer, even if it means that she doesn’t have as much time for her friends as she used to. Evie coming out as a Diviner has caused other Diviners to show their faces, but more often than not they are just a con-artist looking to make an extra buck. Ling Chan is not one of those con-artists. A girl who lives with her parents in Chinatown, Ling can dream walk like Henry. Unlike Henry, Ling Chan has one more ability: she can find ghosts and speak with them using an object from their lives. She dreams of saving enough money to go to college to study science. Dollar by dollar, she gets closer to her goal every time she connects with someone’s dead relative. Ling is a nice foil for Evie, who she views as petty.
Lair of Dreams is again written from multiple perspectives. The Diviners main cast of characters were Evie, Sam, Memphis, and Jericho, with many side characters. Lair of Dreams focuses more on the dream walkers of the first novel: Henry and a character only briefly mentioned in the last novel, Ling. The others are still in it, of course, because they’re part of the larger story of the series, but this novel is not as focused on them. While they walk in dreams and Evie revels in her recent fame, the danger contained in Lair of Dreams sneaks up on them. The book is divided into days as the sickness progresses, but it’s not in consecutive order. We don’t hear all of the advancements, which makes us a little lost to contrast how often we know things ahead of the characters.
Dreams are dangerous in this book. They lure you in with promises of things you desire: the heart of the pretty flapper who never notices you; the family you left behind, the family you want to have; the wish that you weren’t the only one of your friends who survived the war. The desires soon turn into nightmares. They can make you disappear in them, never to wake. I really enjoyed that dreaming took a more villainous role in this book. There’s lucid dreaming where you can control what happens in your dream, but what happens if the choices you make trap you in a nightmare? Sometimes, you can force yourself to wake up from a nightmare when it is too scary, but that’s not the case for this sleeping sickness. Several characters are dream walkers, so every time they went dream walking I was nervous that they’d make the same mistakes that other victims of the sickness made. The failed dreams of people who can’t or aren’t allowed to make it in New York fuel the sleeping sickness. Dreams aren’t meant to be dangerous, but nightmares aren’t supposed to be real, either.
What made Lair of Dreams more suspenseful than The Diviners was the lack of character awareness. In The Diviners, they know fairly quickly that there is a murderer out there who is terrorizing the city and that he needs to be stopped. In Lair of Dreams, we have characters that are too wrapped up in their own lives to really notice that there’s serious things going on. Evie has her celebrity status and Ling Chan and Henry are thrilled to be creating the dream world that they inhabit for increasingly longer amounts of time, further increasing my tension that they are in danger. After all, dreams are taking over people and making them sick. Libba Bray builds the tension by allowing the reader to see what is happening before the characters do, making me want to shake the characters and yell some sense into them. The Diviners didn’t give the reader too much information before the characters knew it. This book is the opposite. It’s spooky. I was worried that characters may die because they’re unaware of the danger constantly around them.
While there’s the more supernatural worry of whatever these dreams are creating, there’s also the more pressing issues of real world problems that were rampant at the time. This is a historical novel as much as a paranormal one, and it doesn’t ignore the time that it is set in. The Ku Klux Klan, Eugenics, and the Chinese Exclusion Act all play a part. The fear of people who are not like you masks the other issue of what is brewing underneath the glitter and bustle of New York. Libba Bray sets her paranormal story smack in the middle of this history. Of course the more supernatural bits of Lair of Dreams can be terrifying; it’s filled with suspense because you know Evie and Co. will have to confront the problem sooner rather than later. You can feel the tension of the characters during the action scenes. However, that isn’t the only thing that was frightening about Lair of Dreams. One of the scarier things in the book was when Ling was being harassed by several men on the street. I felt that, because that is very real to me. Libba Bray uses history to put her characters in situations that would have been frequent back then, as well as issues that are still present today. Even while reading fiction, you can’t escape in quite the same way as you can with other fantasy books because some of it is not actually fiction. There’s some truth in it.
Lair of Dreams is clearly a middle book, which is not a bad thing. Elements that were introduced in the first novel, like Project Buffalo, are expanded on in Lair of Dreams but aren’t finished at the conclusion of the novel. Threats exist but are veiled by lies. There’s a ton of set up for the next novels. It does its job well, because I am completely sold on the series now. I knew I wanted to continue reading the series after The Diviners, but this novel really got its hooks into me. It was fast paced and well written. There’s something so distinct about the way Libba Bray does her settings. They pop and drop me right in, making me fall in love with the setting and the characters. It always makes me wish time travel were possible. I’d love to spend just one night in 1920s New York.
This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley. This is an honest review. Lair of Dreams is slated for publication on August 25th, 2015.