Egyptology opens the door to a magical dreamland in Mayer’s young adult fantasy novel.
Every child sleeps, but they aren’t all catching Z’s and counting sheep; some escape to a magical world where they fly as birds and run like horses. For thousands of generations, children have dreamt peacefully and drank from the sacred S’aakhu pool in freedom. They create homes, herd the hillside with pack mates and wake up feeling refreshed—that is until the evil Black Queen begins enslaving their dreaming minds. Harvesting the power of children and creating a bloodthirsty army of wolves, the Queen now controls the dream world. Opposing her as the only force of freedom, a band of bears led by Brummbar seeks the help of an insomniac teen named Sabine. Aided by a powerful amulet inherited from her grandfather, Sabine enters the dreaming world and joins the resistance. After a few near-death accidents, she learns how to wield her magic and free the enslaved children. Nights pass and the longer Sabine lives in the dream world, the more she senses that she may know these talking beasts—perhaps in the waking world. Slow to start and bogged down by back stories of parental death and inner monologues, the narration builds in pace after the first 100 pages. Throughout the tale, familiar themes are woven into the text, including elements of the questing hero, love triangles, epic battles and magical medallions. But at times these well-known predicaments teeter on the edge of cliché. While Sabine is a sweet girl caught in teen-love tug of war, the reader at times may feel that she has heard this before. Occasionally glimmering with delightful insight and historical detail, the book suffers from over-description in its opening chapters but succeeds in latter pages to create a mystical forest of speaking creatures and clashing swords.