In this YA paranormal urban fantasy, a teenage girl discovers that she has a special destiny involving the world of her dreams.
Vanessa Riggs is more grown-up than most 16-year-olds. She’s spent most of her life in trouble spots around the world, helping out after disasters with her adoptive father, Sam, who raised her after her biological mother’s death. But a lifetime of disaster work isn’t the most unusual thing about Vanessa: she also has an “imaginary friend,” Matthias, her dearest companion and trusted advice-giver, whom she’s always known. She sees him and other figures in her dreams, where she seems to be living different lives in a series of historical fantasies; in them, she’s “the child of the two most powerful Gods in this realm” and faces unwelcome betrothal to someone called “the Son of Am-heh.” Back in her waking life, when Vanessa and Sam return home to McCall, Idaho, she keeps bumping (literally) into “a massive young man” named Tanner Jamison. She shares an instant connection with him, and she also discovers that they have the ability to hear each other’s thoughts. As she has experiences with him, Matthias, and others, Vanessa comes to an emotional crossroads: should she try to live an ordinary life and settle down in McCall, or should she learn the truth about herself, her dreams, her gifts, and her role in a larger world of “magic and monsters”? A vision of coming evil finally gives Vanessa her quest. In her debut novel, Long uses the common, popular trope of a young person with a secret, crucial fate, as well as a special guardian. Vanessa’s disaster work is an intriguing and unusual element, giving her toughness and skills that could prove useful later on. Her romance with Tanner, though, is a very conventional high school love story, aside from its paranormal elements, and her often heralded allure is more stated than shown. Also, her dreams have little context until relatively late in the novel; the story’s hints don’t give readers very much to go on. Nearly the entire volume is taken up with complex back story and stage-setting, which will be unsatisfying for readers hoping for more than a mere overture to adventure.
Some promising elements, bogged down by slow exposition and a failure to launch.