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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on November 19, 2003
The Dreaming Place is a YA urban fantasy novel about two cousins, sixteen year old girls, who get tangled up in a magical tug-of-war with a Native American spirit of winter. The story is a sweet one, but I felt just a little too heavy-handed with the moral. It did touch me in some spots, but in others I felt it was being too obvious.
The main characters, Nina and Ash, are so typical they verge on being stereotypes. The book ends up being Caitlin's Way crossed with Sabrina the Teenaged Witch...
I ended up liking Ash more than Nina mainly because I could identify with her pain (she lost her mother). And because, despite her predictability, she showed more personality than her cousin. I kept being annoyed by the book because Nina was acting rather vapid and whiny through most of it, and I could feel the author's preference for her on every page.
De Lint, I think, thought more people (or kids) would identify with Nina, who is smart and thinks math is interesting and worries about boys and complexions and reads Sassy magazine. Ash is the bad one--the girl who skips class and doesn't care about things, and walls off her emotions, and can't deal with the world. But Ash, who often sits in the park and has actual conversations with homeless people (oh my!) is a far more complex character in my view. She has bravery and skill as well as brains. This all comes into play when the conflict rears its ugly head, but the end message seems to be "Only when Ash learns that it's better to be more like her cousin than like herself can she save the day and be happy." I'm not down with that.
The idea for this book is a good one. But I think length worked against de Lint in that some areas of the otherworld and Nina's personal power (not to mention Ash's) and what forces led to this confrontation were not as fleshed out as they could have been. This felt like it should have been a longer book but just... wasn't.
The secondary characters need a lot of help themselves. Nina's parents are doing well in their roles until the end, where they come face to face with the weirdness going on in their daughter and niece's lives. However, at that point they become highly unbelievable and one wonders if things might have gone better had they not ever gotten involved. Better for the reader, anyway, not to have to deal with the thin or unbelievable characterization going on.
The most interesting person in the book is a secondary character: Cassie. At one point Ash realizes that she doesn't know much about this woman she calls friend and regrets it. I regret it, too, because I'm far more interested in her role in this and her past than I am in anyone else in the book.
Once we get beyond Ash and Nina, everyone else starts to take on the veneer of Plot Device.
There is a lot of bandying about with different kinds of magic and belief systems. Native American shamans (or, juju men...) hanging out with women who deal magical tarot cards. Then there is the Dreaming Place itself, which is supposed to be faerie or the dreamtime or any quasi-magical not the real world place in mythology. But it's mostly populated by Native American spirits and creatures. There's also something about a Cornish spirit that didn't come through clear to me.
Basically, de Lint is trying to weave several different systems here to create a mysterious, yet coherent, whole. It's not quite working, in my opinion.
Despite all my grousing, I enjoyed most of the book. It wasn't until the end that things started falling apart and losing steam. The premise is good, the execution not so. A good read for the Tween set, as it isn't truly bad, and may teach them a thing or two.
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on October 24, 2002
Let's face it...there are some Newford books that you have to make charts and maps and timelines for just to figure out what's going on. Not that I'm complaining--Jilly and Wendy and Sophie, Christy and Geordie, and newcomers like Mick and the Crow Girls are like slightly out-of-town best friends, and the city of Newford sprawls out on the landscape of one's imagination--it's a city that EVERYONE wants to visit.
"The Dreaming Place" is a Newford book without all of the backstory, which is vaguely annoying and slightly relieving at the same time. In "The Onion Girl," I kept a list on the inside cover of who all the minor characters (Mona, Margaret, etc.) were, and where I remembered them from. Here, there was none of that...just a straightforward story about an angry young girl having trouble finding a place in a stange country after losing her mother. So much trouble, in fact, that she attracts the attention of Something Nasty, and gets her naive cousin in Big Trouble.
Fans of de Lint's urban fantasy won't be disappointed in this light read. (Also, Newford buffs, I believe that this marks the first appearance of Cassie and Bones, of "Trader" and "The Onion Girl" fame.) the only thing that really got to me was the atrocious font that this book was printed in, and believe me, I got over that pretty quickly. So don't judge this book by its length, or the fact that it's classified as a children's book. "The Dreaming Place" fits flawlessly into the heart and soul of Newford.
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This was one of Charles de Lint's earlier fantasy works, and unfortunately it shows. The reprinting of this all-too-short novella will, however, probably delight fans of his Newford series and other "urban fantasies." I confess to not being a huge fan of either, but I did find "Dreaming Place" a moderately enjoyable fantasy story.
Ashley's mother was recently murdered, and her father doesn't want her around. She ends up being shrugged off on her kindly but hippieish aunt and uncle, and her nervous cousin Nina. There, Ashley buys occult books, plays heavy metal, alarms Nina into thinking that she is a witch, and cultivates a core of anger at her life in general. Her only real friends are a street tarot reader and a slightly eccentric shaman (who is, for some reason, called "Bones").
But soon Bones whisks Ashley off to the mystical Otherworld, a place of legends and spirits. A bloodthirsty spirit called a manitou is stalking Nina, who was accidently dedicated to her as a baby. In the real world, Nina struggles to escape strange specters and a homicidal stranger who knows about the manitou's pursuit of her. Ashley must try to save her cousin -- and will learn a few things about herself in the process.
"The Dreaming Place" is not a bad novella, it's just not a particularly good one. While de Lint is now experienced and has written many books, it becomes evident when reading this that it was written early in his career. The pacing essentially alternates between being sluglike and fast, with high-activity stuff with Nina in the real life in one chapter and more agonizing soul-searching by Ashley in the next. It's somewhat too short for the wealth of potential material, zipping through in just over a hundred pages, zipping straight into the action without much buildup. The writing is often very poetic, but hints that it could be more. And de Lint displays a lack of subtlety, as he is inclined to spell things out rather than allowing readers to pick up on their own.
Unfortunately Ashley is perhaps the least interesting character in the book. Her in-depth soul-searching with a spirit is dull to the point of page flipping, and her cliched "righteous anger" that needs to be unkinked is her sole distinguishing characteristic. She reminded me of the worse heroines by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. I found the nervous but pleasant Nina to be a nice character, one who tries to regain some control over her destiny as it supernaturally spirals out of control. Native American shaman Bones will also appeal to fans of the Obi-Wan Kenobi wise-old-mentor archetype.
If you are a de Lint fan or a fan of urban fantasy, you may enjoy this book. But be sure to make allowances for the fact that he wasn't quite as polished as he undoubtedly is now.
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on December 16, 2002
This is a delightful SHORT story by CDL. Full of interesting characters with the same sort of style we expect of CDL.
This book, originally printed in 1990 with Brian Froud's illustrations, was part of a special project I beleive conceived by Froud and CDL with others. I am very fond of this book and do not agree with folks that this isn't as good as his later work.
CDL had already written many novels by the time this book was released it was never intended to be a novel but just a short excusion into the world of Newford.
In all honesty I have been more disapointed with his more recent work, it all seems rushed contrived and almost boring in some cases. In fact, much of his new writing is too predictable now whereas this and his other older work is still amazing and new something to truly savor and enjoy.
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on August 1, 2003
I loved the intermingling of spirituality and fantasy within the pages of this Charles De Lint novella. I am beginning to seriously wonder if De Lint is pagan or not. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Lammas Eve
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on March 1, 2004
In this book, Charles de Lint, who wrote so well for the young adult crowd in Riddle of the Wren, displays the worst kind of simplistic moralizing and talking down to the reader. The sadly predictable tale of a rebellious youth and her goodie-two-shoes cousin / sibling - both completely two-dimensional stereotypes without an ounce of personality - Learning A Valuable Lesson completely eclipses any delight or fun or even interest that might have occurred for the reader when Magic enters their stupid little lives and strange things happen. Guest appearances by Cassie and Bones can't even help this piece of garbage. We realize de Lint's publisher is trying to capitalize on his popularity by unearthing lesser-known works, but - man, they should have given this thing a quiet burial and left it at that.
We love Charles de Lint - but nobody's perfect, and he doesn't write well when he writes for the youth market. Whatever you do, don't buy this for a teen or even a child in your life. They'll never forgive you.
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on June 16, 2016
Charles De Lint is awesome, as always
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