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The Dream Alchemist

The Dream Alchemist - Joanna Chambers

An interesting and imaginative read, although I had a few issues.

The story: It's our world, but there are those who exist who can "dreamwalk" or when they sleep, they enter the dreamworld of Somnus, lucid and having powers, while drone-like zombies mill around (that's us when we're sleeping.)

The first time dreamwalker Bryn meets Laszlo, it's when he's visiting this dream world. They don't know each other in the waking world, but that meeting starts a chain-reaction of realizations, as Bryn learns his skills in dreamwalking run much deeper (and dangerous) and Laszlo finds that he can't run from his dreams any longer, especially if it means risking never seeing Bryn again.

How were the MCs? Bryn was very likeable and it was easy to follow his journey, whether it was in the real world or when he was dreamwalking in Somnus. I felt less connection to Laszlo, where much of his journey was focused on coming to grips with who he really is. Together, they were fun, although I'll admit, it felt pretty "insta", so much so that I wondered if there was some greater meaning to their instant attraction--like if they had met before in Somnus, but couldn't remember. So far, that hasn't been spelled out.

What worked for me? Fun ideas, and good tension built up as Bryn and Laszlo are automatically pulled closer and closer to danger when they enter their dreams.

For those who are nervous about their couples and the endings, readers should feel safe here. Chambers does not pull a "Provoked" with this volume. (I say that will love, BTW.) :-)

What was harder for me? I found this book a bit frustrating, but I'm not sure how frustrated I'm supposed to be.

I like the pacing at first as the novel's world unspooled and you tried to figure out what was going on, but it did feel very "well-paced" or a little slow in development. Around 60% or so, I started thinking that I must be in a first book of a trilogy or a multi-book character arc, because I wasn't getting a feeling that we would get much character development in this first book. I was a little frustrated because it felt like much of this first volume was set-up, and didn't feel like a solid story on its own.

The last quarter, things speed up, but then I felt frustrated because it was almost too fast after that first half, and felt a bit anti-climactic after all the build-up before then.

I honestly don't know what to think of the book. Will Bryn and Laszlo have their story continue in book 2? If so, I feel more forgiving and will just wait for things to be developed further.

But I got the feeling that their love story is done at the end of this, even though so much of the novel felt like setting up something much longer. Side couples are also introduced here, so I'm wondering if the side couples are now going to be main characters in the next volume. If so, I feel more frustrated because I didn't feel enough development with the first couple, and don't really care about the side couples.

So for me, it was hard to understand how this first volume fit. It felt like mostly set-up, but then a fast close-up for the MCs. Will we get more with them to match that set-up? If so, I'll look forward to that. If it's progressing on with the conflicts between the side characters, then I care less.

Overall? An interesting and imaginative read. Those who like sci-fi-ish/speculative fiction with their m/m may dig it.

For me, the frustration over the pacing, the slow and then fast development, and the uncertainty of how things will progress make me pause when thinking about whether I should continue to vol. 2. I guess I'll wait for the blurb. If it's jumping to the next couple, I probably won't continue.

Reviewed first for Boys in our Books.