Thank you Onwe Press for this ARC copy of Dream Country! Have you ever had to DNF a book you were really excited to read? I sooooo wanted to like this book, I really, really did. YA fantasy definitely has its fair share of hits and misses across the entire genre, and Dream Country has everything I’d want in a fantasy book. A black author, multilingual characters, even multiETHNIC characters, but somewhere between the planning stage and the execution stage, it lost me.
“A sibling rivalry to fuel your worst nightmares. The dysfunctional triplet gods of Sleep, Dreams and Nightmares are kept separate by the deadly Gates of Horn and Ivory. Only one fact keeps them tightly bound: each of them is a suspect in their mother’s murder. Their knife-edge feud worsens when a mortal enters the world with astounding abilities that threaten to change the game for them all. In this thrilling young adult fantasy, Ashaye Brown brings to life a visionary world infused with Kenyan, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Grecian cultural references. A story like no other with stakes as high as they come.” Dream Country starts off well; a prologue that got me hooked to the first character right away, and then an introduction to the other two out of three of the main characters. This is where it all started to get weird. I really would’ve liked to hear from all three MCs. Instead, we get Theo and Torres (sometimes spelt as Tores) who seem decent enough, but Fanta, their sister, has so much more power and excitement to her, I really felt that as a reader I was cheated out of a potentially good POV here! I actually stopped reading at page 114 and tried to convince myself that after some time I would pick the book up again and start back where I left off, but I couldn’t. A few pages before this, a scene involving child rape, enforced child prostitution, and physical abuse randomly pops up, and it’s handled so carelessly that I had to put the book for what I thought would be a couple of days, which turned to weeks. It has now been just over a month and I have no plans of picking the book up ever again. I don’t class myself as an overly sensitive reader, but subjects like this definitely warrant either a trigger warning (considering I received this as an ARC copy) or some sort of build-up and cool down where the reader gets to feel satisfied that this scene is in the book for a reason. Since I didn’t read beyond this point, I guess I’ll never know, but the scene where gods are discussing whether or not to take a newborn baby away from his (badly beaten) mother makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Add that to the fact that she couldn’t even understand a word they were saying, and therefore couldn’t consent to her essentially kidnapping her baby? Yeah, weird. As it stands, my guess is that this scene was just added for shock value. And shock it did, in the worst way possible. I do, however, like the premise of the story, the fusion of cultures, languages, the world-building especially is amazing! It does make for a good debut novel if it is to be part of a series, though a part of me feels like this would translate a lot better on screen than on paper. I give Dream Country a 2 out of 5 for originality. I really liked how it started, but I, unfortunately, couldn’t see myself recommending it to anyone.