- Search for the Shadow Key
- War for the Waking World
I didn’t realize until I got these books from the library that they are published by Thomas Nelson (Christian publishing house), so I wasn’t initially expecting the strong religious message in these books. However, they still had a decent story to tell, although Batson at times seemed uncertain of how to weave religion into the tale. Overall, I enjoyed these as a one-time read, but they definitely weren’t books I see myself returning to.
In the first book we meet Archer, our unlikely teenage hero who has a mysterious power and heavy responsibility – he is one of only three Dreamtreaders – people who have the ability to control their dreams and thus work to keep the Dreamworld separate from the Waking World. Each Dreamtreader is responsible for a different portion of the Dreamworld, and spends his time there searching for and repairing breaches in the fabric that keeps the Dreamworld separate from our own. Within the Dream, the Dreamtreaders have all kinds of powers to create and do things they could never do in the Waking World.
However, there are dark forces at work within the Dreamworld. The Nightmare Lord runs around making everyone’s dreams terrible, and also wants to destroy the fabric between the two worlds – if he can escape from the Dreamworld, he can wreak even more chaos and destruction.
It took me a little while to really get into this story, and I seriously considered not finishing about halfway through the first book as things were still quite slow. But the pace picked up and things did get more interesting. However, it overall felt like these books could have used one more round of editing. There were parts throughout that were choppy and disjointed, and also some minor continuity issues that aggravated me now and then.
On a personal level, I was really, REALLY over Archer’s favorite exclamation of “Snot rockets!” I mean… seriously? There has GOT to be a middle ground between swearing and absolutely juvenile exclamations like snot rockets. It really grated on my nerves and felt like it brought down the overall maturity level of the story.
I’m completely fine with fiction teaching a lesson or using a story as an allegory or whatever, but it has to be done well. In these books, the religion aspect felt a little clumsy, like Batson knew what he wanted to say but wasn’t completely sure how to work it in. Sometimes it was basically like THESE ARE ANGELS AND DEMONS HELLO and then other times everything was really vague.
There was also Batson’s habit of using the word “quipped” in very serious situations. To me, “quip” is a word that suggests wry humor/sarcasm, but for instance at one point Archer is on trial for all these serious crimes and the judge “quips” when what the judge is saying isn’t remotely funny or sarcastic, but completely serious. It was little things like that that sound really picky but somehow made these books not as enjoyable for me.
While these weren’t bad books, they were basically just a 3/5 read. I can see the adventures (and exclamations of snot rockets) appealing to a middle school audience, but in my mind they lack the depth that make them appealing to a wider audience.