Dreamwood is my book review for today. This fantasy adventure for middle grade readers takes place around the north-west coast of a settler-era America.
What’s so #30DaysWild about that? Well, with all the things going on with the trees, I thought you’d like a picture of some wild trees in Epping Forest. The one above was done in situ (en plein air is the artists term, as in ‘in the open air’). It’s in pastel, my favourite medium. When I got home I did the one at the bottom of this post, because that is what I really saw when I was doing it.
But first, my review.
Lucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing research in Saarthe, a remote territory in the Pacific Northwest populated by towering redwoods, timber barons, and the Lupine people. But upon arriving, she learns her father is missing: Rumor has it he’s gone in search of dreamwood, a rare tree with magical properties that just might hold the cure for the blight that’s ravaging the forests of Saarthe.
Determined to find her father (and possibly save Saarthe), Lucy and her vexingly stubborn friend Pete follow William Darrington’s trail to the deadly woods on Devil’s Thumb. As they encounter Lupine princesses, giant sea serpents, and all manner of terrifying creatures, Lucy hasn’t reckoned that the dreamwood itself might be the greatest threat of all. [goodreads]
This was a book of the month for the Great Middle Grade Reads group on Goodreads, and I bought a second-hand copy via Amazon for a pittance.
I enjoyed reading Dreamwood. Lucy was believable, if a little slow on the uptake in some things, for all her cleverness. She had a little bit of the Hermione Granger about her, without the understanding of people. The characters and communities were well put together, ranging from outback towns, through native people’s communities (more ‘modern’ than the settler’s outpost), to wild woods and plains.
I felt the plot held up most of the time, although I was distracted by the scale of the forest she was in. From the description of the place when she looked at the map, I had imagined a much smaller area of land; this one took days, if not weeks to travel through – and it didn’t seem to be because of a need to hack one’s way through jungle. I was also distracted by being on open fields surrounded by trees, heading towards some hilly woods, yet guided all the while by the line of the ocean in the distance. Something wrong with the sightlines in that, I thought.
Technicalities apart, this was a good scary story for middle grade (older kids) readers. Some of it was very scary. The first dream sequence was brilliantly written, and had me completely involved. Mechanical inventions generally worked well. The author did a good bit of world-building here, even if I could be a bit fussy over details. And you know how much I love sentient trees!
My sentient tree picture
I painted these around 1990, in case you wondered. That’s a long time ago now.
Apologies for the distortion in the pictures. I took these photographs at an angle to avoid reflections from the glass, probably just before I took them to the person who had bought them at the Epping Art Society’s Annual Show. Copyright remains with me, though.
This is part of my #30DaysWild challenge. You can join in!