I recently joined NetGalley and received an eBook of Dreamwalker (The Red Dragon Academy Book 1) by Rhys Bowen and C.M. Broyles in exchange for an honest review.
Seven Children, Seven Powers. One Enemy. Addy Walker is a normal California surfer girl until her mother dies and her British aunt enrolls her at a boarding school called Red Dragon Academy in Wales. At first the school seems okay, if a little weird. Which other school has a sun-day when it’s not raining? But when Addy stumbles upon a hallway that leads to a different and horrible part of the school she begins to have her doubts. Addy has always had vivid dreams but now these dreams are becoming frighteningly real and she has a hard time telling dreams from reality. Was it really only in a dream that she visited the cold palace and met the man who wants her captured? He calls her a dreamwalker and it seems that this is a special and dangerous power. Is Addy really able to move between two worlds or is she finally cracking up? Dreamwalker is the first book in the Red Dragon Academy series and in it we meet Addy, as well as snooty Pippa, brainy Raj, cheeky Sam, serious Coby, shy Gwyllum and worldly Celeste—all who may have been brought to the school because of their special powers. All of whom may be in mortal danger from a terrifying tyrant who calls himself The One, in a land that seems a lot like Wales, but isn’t.
Dreamwalker starts out with a great premise. Who doesn’t love schools full of magic and powers? The characters are all interesting and different, and I see a lot of promise in their abilities and friendships as the series grows. I was also fascinated that Addy’s power is one of dreamwalking since I have such vivid dreams myself. I easily related to how she felt when she realized that what she thought was something that really happened turned out to be her unconscious mind.
However, some of the promise I saw in the series was not realized in the story itself. I felt the pacing of the book was off, some parts moved extremely slow while the emotional aspects of some serious moments moved quickly with little development of Addy’s psyche. Addy finds out some things about her past that are quite shocking and would be devastating, especially to someone who has just lost their only support system. Yet she spends little time processing these things in anyway whatsoever, let alone in a constructive way. While I understand people have a perception of children as being resilient and teenagers as being closed mouthed when it comes to emotions, the inner turmoil is still there and that is something I did not see. Personally, I wish there had been more development of the emotional side of her character verses the adventures.
And the book is full of adventures. It has treasure hunts, haunted hallways, mysterious teachers, etc. I really did enjoy some of those scenes and moments that Addy has on her adventures. The premise and even the world building are well done. It is a decently written book except for some pacing and emotional character development. It is possible that these will be improved in the next book in a series, but I’m not sure I will read them to find out. While I felt a connection to Addy’s ability in dreamwalking, I didn’t feel a connection to Addy herself. Personally, I look for connections to the characters not just the world they live in. Overall, I think the story was interesting and it kept me reading despite some drawbacks. (This may have something to do with the fact that much of the explanation for things didn’t happen until I was ninety percent of the way through the book. Ninety percent!)
If you enjoy adventure stories about schools full of children with interesting abilities, you may find this book to your liking.
P,S. I know this is basically an ARC via NetGalley, but the formatting on my mobile device was severely lacking. I spent a goodly amount of my time trying to sus out who said what. I hope these formatting kinks are worked out for the people who pay to read the story.