Book Review – The Waking Dreamer

The Waking Dreamer (The Waking Dreamer, #1)The Waking Dreamer by J.E. Alexander

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sigh. This book should have been named The Traveller’s Guide to the Dark, Eerie and Pointless Mythical Creatures Inhabiting USA because it is essentially one long, fictional guidebook. There is nothing resembling a plot in here; only a paranormal documentary. The readers are just thrown from location to location and given a bunch of increasingly convoluted facts about the mythology. The MC inspires no feelings whatsoever, save one of mild annoyance at his helplessness. There is horror but there isn’t; there is mystery but there isn’t; there is romance but it’s completely non-existent. What we do get instead is a bunch of existentialist questions thrown in like chocolate chips on a cookie and a lot of wardrobe changes.

Let’s attack things one by one.

1. Emmett – Oh boy. He is every useless female heroine I’ve read rolled into one. He does not have any sense of self preservation whatsoever, is constantly depending on someone else to save his sorry behind and thinks his snark is witty. He is the typical prickly hero with a DARK PAST who is so busy feeling sorry for himself, he doesn’t notice when he’s about to get killed. He is introduced to us as a movie and pop culture loving insomniac teen.

This insomniac falls asleep more than seven times in the book.

His movie references are just plain annoying.

And tell me if you know any teens who think or speak like this:

“He tried to shake off the miasma of post-sleep somnolence…” 

Never mind that the sentence is about how sleepy you feel after sleeping. Emmett is full of inconsistencies. He can identify the exact species of butterflies in his recurring dream, but not what clothes the people in the painting are wearing:

“…each dressed in old period clothes…One of the men wore some kind of crown…”

It’s a turban you idiot!

He is also extremely judgemental. He is surprised when Sebastian looks hurt, because, of course, muscled, well built men don’t have feelings right? He all but brands Ellie as a superficial slut when he thinks she is staring at Sebastian’s chest. The woman’s brother was ripped to pieces and all you can think about is whether or not she is admiring another guy’s chest? Pot calling kettle black, buddy. Did you conveniently forget about the time in the cave when you said you were claustrophobic but you were staring at Amala’s “developed chest that slowly rose and fell”?

This just reeks of hypocrisy.

Emmett is like Archie Andrews without the freckles and charm – TSTL, clumsy and a pain in the neck.

2. The world building – Yeesh. Though the entire book is, as I said, like the greatest hits collection of the ugliest monsters, there is an overriding feeling of pointlessness to it. It is never properly explained how Druids and Bards get their power or the ability to use them. There is a Song mentioned again and again, with not even the slightest clue as to what it is or how it can be harnessed. How do the Druids meet and connect with their Wisdoms? Are they special animals or just normal ones with special people? There is no proper history given to us, just some mangled myths that even the MC doesn’t believe.

There are some antagonists who regularly pop up like Jack-in-the-boxes, make Emmett throw up and go back again. The resolution is thoroughly unsatisfying – Emmett just banishes these oh-so-terrifying monsters by calling out their names and just telling them to go away.

There is also a bunch of crazy people in this book, Revenants, who worship the evil thingies and do unspeakable acts in their name. Again, an element of vagueness is introduced here. There is no explanation as to why they actually support the villains or what they get out of it. And that brings me to…the rape scene.

There is a point in the book where Emmett first is reliving Ellie’s memories in a waking dream and he sees her little sister being gang-raped by the Revenants. Now if you’re going to horrify the readers with a rape, you must have some legitimate reason for it, right? Wrong. The rape is never explicitly connected to Ellie later, so you’re left wondering what that was all about, with a sour taste in your mouth. It doesn’t even work as characterisation for the eeeeeevil people, because as it turns out, it was the wrong thing to do:

“We seek your favour, Old One,” the kneeling man said with trembling hands raised above his head.
I require a living offering, the voice responded as its red eyes turned to the unmoving child who, even in apparent death, was still being violated.

Yeah, they’re raping a kid in the name of worshipping that thing and they don’t even know whether the offering should be alive or dead. And throughout the whole thing, we’re wondering what Emmett has to do with anything. We don’t understand his importance until the end of the book. Given that he’s the MC, you would think he would have more of a role in what happens. But no.

3. The other characters – Amala isn’t there in the book at all. She gets barely 2 chapters’ worth of appearances. A book with 30 chapters and the love interest appears in only 2. At least it saves me the pain of writing about her. Keiran is a whole other story. He is the Mary Sue of this book, just in case you thought there wasn’t one. To add to his manly perfection, he loves clothes. So much so that, he changes his clothes around seven times in the book.

Excuse me, but I thought you were running for your lives. The colour of your cufflinks should not be important here.

4. The plot – Basically, you couldn’t see this plot in bright sunlight even if it were dressed in neon signs and it bit you in the face. There’s lots of travelling, eating, throwing up, stumbling and muttering, but no actual action. Oh sure, there are fight scenes, they go like this:

Lots of pirouetting and twirling. Lovely stuff. They don’t serve any purpose at all other than to make you go:

Most of scenes that are meant to be chilling are completely B grade horror movie tropes, so they’re about as scary as :

If you really want to read this book, go ahead, but do not expect anything resembling a story, interesting characters or fascinating world building. You could read it for the…really, I don’t know what you would read it for.

*The above quotes were taken from an ARC subject to corrections. Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for allowing me to review this book.*

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