Here we have a young-adult novel, a beginning of a new series written by two creative authors. Everything happens in a steampunk dystopian world, where two worlds don’t know of each other’s existence. Two worlds separated, yet dependent of each other, and on the mysterious device they call Blunderbuss.
The Dream Engine by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Story follows Eila, 15-year old Builder from Waldron’s Gate, a city built around the Blunderbuss machine and closest to the mysterious fog everyone’s so afraid of. Eila’s job is to build whatever the Blunderbuss machine sends to her mind while she’s in a builder’s trance. She and all people living on the ground think their building ideas come straight from aether.
The truth is much worse than that.
Eila finds out the truth during a dream, something she’s not supposed to have. First thing she remembers after she wakes up is a boy. One day Eila decides she must find out if there’s a truth behind those dreams of hers. What she finds is not only the boy but also a whole new world under the one she knows – an underground Pavilion.
I did enjoy all the steampunk feel of this world. Somehow it made it easier to imagine how everything looked like than some of the SF worlds some authors try to create. But still it felt like they could do it a bit better, I just felt like it’s all incomplete. I just don’t know what was missing. Maybe I simply wasn’t convinced that this is everything there is, that it somehow can exist, and it felt unreal. And when the world created in a book doesn’t let you completely immerse into it, it won’t let you feel the story either.
Authors also tried to create a specific language suited for this steampunk world of theirs. They used some changed words for the things we already know, like “cofei” instead of coffee, “view box” instead of TV. It was OK, and rather matched the overall mood, it showed us that we’re in the same world and yet very different.
I really liked some parts of the book. Mostly near the end, when Eila was trying to determine her sanity, understand her visions. But also there’s this part when authors describe how one of the dreamers looked after finishing her shift:
“The woman wore a small smile. It wasn’t the smile of someone who is happy, but of someone who has done a job – no matter how unpleasant – and done it well. It was the look of a defender. Of a martyr who is, day by day, placing herself in the line of fire to save the world for those who she loves.”
This was a really good one. It was one of those moments in the book when I actually felt like I’m in there, standing right next to our heroine, seeing what she’s seeing.
There’s this one point at which Daw says to Eila that she’ll have to part the fog for the others to create a passage. It sounded like he wanted her to play Moses. It was strange. There are also many references to Alice in Wonderland that made me wonder if authors tried to write some kind of a story retelling. If that’s the case, then the idea was good, but I’ve read better and more interesting ones.
I liked the heroine, she wasn’t perfect and that made her more realistic. Although she seemed older than her age and she felt like that from the very beginning, not after she went through her adventures. But she also seemed to mature on the way, grow up as the book progressed.
The other characters weren’t that convincing. They simply showed up from time to time, always the same, supporting Eila sometimes. From her family only the father was noticeable, others felt like shadows, they might as well be just pictures on the walls.
There were those few moments when I couldn’t put the book down. But there were mostly in the last 30-40% of the story and at that point I was already almost bored with it. I wouldn’t put it down, I wanted to know what will happen next and how will it all end, although the ending was rather predictable.
I don’t think I’ll be reaching for the next book of this series, but maybe you’ll like it more than I did.