Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Witch Dreams

by Vivian Vande Velde
Start Date: 23 July 2011
End Date: 23 July 2011
Paperback, 120 pages
Published August 28th 2008

Summary (from the back of the book):
Nyssa could dream other people's dreams...

In this suspenseful tale of murder and witchery, Nyssa struggles to hide her true identity from the witch-hunters in her medieval town, while using her gift to solve the biggest mystery of her life: who killed her parents six years ago? Nyssa's dangerous journey leads her through a maze of adventures - in the real world and in the world of the unconscious. Will Nyssa be the next to die?

Oh, for goodness sakes. I didn't include the summary from Goodreads in this review, because it didn't even begin to explain what the book was about, but the summary on the back of the book doesn't really do it either. I'll do my best to write a better one:

My Summary:
Nyssa, a young witch with the powers to see into other people's dreams, has a mission. She wants to avenge the death of her parents, six years ago. She is sure, Elsdon, a local nobleman, is behind the murders, but as she investigates further, she becomes less sure. She uncovers many secrets in her search, but some of those secrets are best undiscovered...

(Okay, not great, but I was trying to imitate the style of the "back of the book reviews" and it turned out better than the one on the back of this book, and far better than the one on Goodreads, so I suppose it's not too bad.)

My Review:
When I finished Witch Dreams, my first thought was "that's it"? The story was both interesting and well-written, but I felt like the entire 120 pages of Witch Dreams was the introduction to a much longer book. Vande Velde could have expanded so much more - I felt like I got a tiny peek into a huge and rich world that I would have loved to spend more time in. And since the book was so short, I felt like I was missing about 200-300 pages of story.

Other than that objection, there was only two other things I was dissatisfied with. One was the very strange twist at the end that seemed to come out of nowhere. If you've read the book you'll know what I'm talking about (Worrell's "secret") (spoiler, highlight to view). It's one of the main reveals at the end, and I felt like it didn't need to be kept from the reader. Rather than a gasp of realization, it made me flip through earlier pages to see if I missed an earlier mention of it. The last issue I had was that at the end I felt like I knew more about Elsdon than Nyssa. Even though the reader got inside Nyssa's dreams, I never felt like I rally got inside her head. She didn't seem very deep as a character, or if she was, it was not obvious enough for me to really get at.

Many aspects of the story were very well done. Vande Velde started with a good concept and was able to expand it, if not to its very fullest potential, to a complete story. VVV was also very skilled at presenting the story in different narrative styles (flashbacks, dreams, straightforward narrative, etc.). One chapter was told from the point of view of a dog - one of my favorite chapters, actually.

VVV's strength as a writer is clear in Witch Dreams as she is able to create a compelling story even though not much actually happens in the course of the book. Nearly all of the action takes place in flashbacks and Nyssa's dreams. Also, there is a second twist as the end that is not nearly as strange as the first that I really enjoyed finding out about. I did not see it coming at all, but it totally worked, and it set up the ending really well.

I should probably read Witch Dreams again someday. I was very sleep-deprived when a read it (very late on a summer-school night, at a time which I will not post since my parents read this blog) so I'm sure I didn't get everything out of it I should have. Besides, it's a very short read - only 120 pages in large font and wide margins. I read it in under an hour the first time around, and it usually takes me even less time to read a book the for the second time.

One thing that put me off reading Witch Dreams for a while was the cover. I really don't like the cover on my book. Not only do I dislike the design, but since the cover is darker when it's printed than when it's online, the girl looks like she's been crying as well as being badly sunburnt on her cheeks (or cheek, rather). I want to create a better cover for it - my friend and I are going to make an attempt this weekend. If it turns out any good, I'll post it here. [EDIT: I posted it here.]


Small Review said...

I would have liked more pages, too. I wanted to really delve into the characters more and see more interaction between Nyssa and Elsdon.

I liked Worrell's secret though. I had to flip back and see if I could catch any hints and I did find them on a second read through (though I had no idea the first time I read it).

I think this is the kind of book that has a subtle poignancy to it, if that makes sense. It's not as much about the murder mystery (which I did find entertaining) as it is about Nyssa dealing with her grief and coming to terms with what happened. I liked that, though it wasn't what I was expecting.

Oh, and I'm with you on that awful cover!

Anonymous said...

How were the parents killed?

Pica said...

Small - I think I should go back and reread the story. Now that I'm a couple months out of my original read-through, I can definitely see your points.

Anonymous - I won't give it away :D... but if you read the book, I'd love to know what you think of the answer!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...