BOOK REVIEW: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

BOOK REVIEW: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Atom Books
August 2015
Paperback, £7.99 GBP
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli

8/10

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What went down in The Diviners (Book 1):

  • It’s 1926 and Evie O’Neill, fulfilling her party girl needs, commits a terrible, scandalous mistake and is sent off to New York City to live with her weird Uncle Will, owner of the Museum of American Folklore and the Occult (aptly nicknamed The Museum of Creepy Crawlies).
  •  Evie quickly forges a bond of immediate understanding with her uncle, thanks to her object-reading power that gives her an insight into people’s pasts, and they make a pact that if she behaves herself and doesn’t get into trouble, then she can stay in the city with him.
  • When mysterious deaths start terrifying the people of New York, Evie realises that she might be well and truly needed. Along with her uncle and a couple of mischevous friends, Evie embarks on a crime-solving-spree that may well and truly change her life forever.

They fall into their beds, the dirt of the city still caked under their ragged nails. They’re too tired for bathing, but they’re not too tired for dreams. For dreams, too, are ghosts, desires chased in sleep, gone by morning. The longing of dreams draws the dead, and this city holds many dreams. The men dream of the music box and its song, a relic from a time long ago.
“Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me / Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee…”

Lair of Dreams (book 2) starts with a sense of ghostly creepiness that doesn’t let up, even after you’ve turned the final page. In this second instalment, the reader returns to 1920s New York. Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner – people with supernatural abilities – and is milking it for all it’s worth. Not only does she have her very own hour on the radio every week where she can use her abilities and earn top-notch money, but she’s also a bit of a celebrity, earning herself the title of “America’s Sweetheart Seer.”

There is a lot going on in this book. Each character has their own storyline: Sam must find clues about Project Buffalo so that he can find his mother; Henry can walk dreams and is desperately trying to find his old sweetheart and accidentally bumps into a new character, Ling; Theta needs to keep her powers secret and will do absolutely anything to make it so; Memphis tries to convince himself that his healing powers are forever gone, much to Old Bill Johnson’s annoyance; Jericho needs to save the Museum of American Folklore and the Occult; Mabel is still terribly in love with Jericho and wants to do something about it.

And then there’s the main storyline that slowly develops, page by page, chapter by chapter: a sleeping sickness is taking over the streets of New York. Each night, it claims a new victim. Someone will go to bed one night and not wake up. The life expectancy is three days, before horrible sores and burns start to develop on the unconscious body, just before they die. The city is in panic, and they’re blaming Chinatown and all of the residents: immigration, apparently, is the reason for the sleeping sickness.

In the gloomy tunnel, the pale, hungry creatures crawled down the walls and into the old station. They tested the rusted gate. When it opened, they sniffed at the damp air, breathing in the intoxicating fumes from so much want, tasting it on their tongues, pushing out farther, crawling into the city’s sewers and into the miles of subway tunnels, hiding in the archways when the trains rumbled past. They loitered in the shadows on the edges of the stations, where they could watch the bright lights of the people so full of yearning.
“Dreams,” they murmured, ravenous.

But it’s not so. A hungry, angry spirit is out on the hunt and claims a victim every night. Every night, until the terrible injustice she suffered is righted again. Add into the mix:

  • A fake romance between Sam and Evie purely for media purposes:

Evie rolled down the back window a smidge. “They’ll be dragging the river for your body tomorrow, Sam Lloyd,” she hissed just before the taxi lurched down the street.
“Did she just say they’d drag the river for your body?” T. S. Woodhouse asked, his pencil poised above his open notebook.
Sam sighed like a man deeply in love. “She did, the little bearcat. It’s the only defense that poor, helpless girl’s got against the animal pull of our love. Uh, you can quote me on that.”
“Animal… pull… of our… love…” Woodhouse was still scribbling as the skies opened suddenly, unleashing a gully of water.

  • A “New America” idea:

“You’re my crowning achievement,” Marlowe leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. That face the press lionized was no less impressive up close. “If we could study you, find out why you’ve survived against the odds, well, think of the good that could be done for America, for mankind. And for you, Jericho.” The great man looked Jericho in the eyes. His gaze was powerful. Inescapable. Jericho could feel the idealism pushing out from Marlowe like rays of sun on the first day of spring. “I’d like to make you the star of the Future of America Exhibition.”

  • And two very strange, very curious men:

“Did you see that, Mr. Adams?” the driver of the sedan asked, breaking the silence in the car.
The man in the passenger seat retrieved a pistachio from the oil-stained bag in his hand and manoeuvred it into his mouth, cracking the shell with his back molars. But he kept his eyes on the museum the whole time.
“I did indeed, Mr. Jefferson,” he answered at last.

And you have yourself a book full of adventure, magic, horror, and fantasy. Although Evie, Sam and Jericho don’t show up a lot in Lair of Dreams, in order to make space for the dream-walkers (Henry and Ling, mostly), their chapters are full of action and plot developments. It was impossible to put down and impossible to stop thinking about after the book was done.

One thing I adore about Libba Bray’s writing is the amount of dedication that goes into bringing the surroundings, characters and plot to life. When I opened Lair of Dreams, it felt like stepping into 1920s New York, and the atmosphere was dark yet glamorous, and I loved each section where the curse took another victim, the dream world Bray created, and how music was integrated into each scene. It was wonderfully ghostly and I found myself shivering and scared right alongside the characters.

This was a much awaited sequel that lived up to its predecessor, and I cannot wait to return to New York in the next instalment.

 

(Lair of Dreams is book 2 in The Diviners series)

BOOK REVIEW: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Filed Under: Book ReviewsOther Reviews

About the Author: 21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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