Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dream Treaders

Title: Dream Treaders

Series: Book #1

Author: Wayne Thomas Batson

Genre: Teen Fantasy (Multiple Dimensions)

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—3.5 out of 5 stars

Excerpt from “Night Terrors,” Chapter 1 of Dream Treaders:

The howls grew louder. The hounds were closer, closing in.

“They’ve got my scent!” Archer Keaton growled as he raced down the moonlit mountain path into a misty dell full of black pines. “Gotta throw them off.” But how? Then he knew.

Archer launched himself skyward. He let his feet brush the treetops a moment, and then purposefully let himself crach down through the crisscrossing pin branches.

Creak. “Ouch.” Crunch. “Oof!” Crack! “Oww!”

The fourteen-year-old yelped with each bounce, smack, and breaking branch. He tumbled to the ground in a sticky heap. When he stood up and tried to brush the pine needles from his coat, vest, and pants, the sap kept most of them glued tight. “Good,” Archer whispered. “The more sap, the better. Now, gotta go!”

He broke out from beneath the pines and sprinted across the uneven ground. The howls were still there. Deep, throaty, mournful howls. And they were still getting closer.

Craft: Dream Treaders presents a fascinating premise where dreams gain substance and meshes with reality in unexpected ways.

For the most part, the adventure promised is delivered with high action in a surreal fantasy realm. Unfortunately, I still struggled to get into the story. I didn’t connect with the characters at first, but rather found them reckless and somewhat self-centered. Their more redeeming qualities were simply buried too far into the book. So while the plotting is strong, it wasn’t compelling enough to propel the first half of the book without the character connection.

However, in the end, all the elements come together, creating an exciting adventure through the latter chapters of the book.

Content: I found the content of Dream Treaders . . . mixed. On the one hand, though the book doesn’t seem to have a strong, central theme (at least as far as I observed), Dream Treaders has many good things to say about keeping one’s word, the consequences of choices, and the problems of ignoring authority or wise advice.

On the other hand, I am slightly concerned about some of the spiritual/supernatural elements. The ability of a human to change/distort reality (e.g. turn a knife into flowers), seemingly on whim, seems to border on certain traits of occultic magic. Also I question how the main character can have such close ties to the angelic (Gabriel) while ignorant of the God Gabriel serves. Likewise, Scripture is also conspicuously absent, all authority and instruction pulled from the special “Dreamtreaders” book.

Yes, I understand about the use of allegory. I also realize some of the spiritual elements may be concealed, even suppressed some, in order to reach a wider audience with this first book. But the character of God does not change nor the basic principles derived from that character, no matter the storyworld—and especially not in one rooted in the real world.

Now I haven’t seen a direct violation. Rather, my concern arises from areas of potential problems. However, since Mr. Batson has proven trustworthy in other books I’ve read of his, I’m willing to wait a bit longer for explanations, in hope they will resolve those potential problems.

Concerning other gray areas, there’s no language that I am aware of and no sexuality, though there are hints of a romance thread. There also exist moderate amounts of fantasy violence and a couple of school fist fights. Finally, the main character disobeys a direct order and shows a tendency to defy authority, but each time with consequences, some of them quite severe.

Summary: Dream Treaders offers a fantastical adventure full of action within a well-built storyworld. I personally found the characters difficult to connect with and some of the content raised my eyebrows. However, based on trust built from other books, I don’t foresee major problems and believe that, with moderate discretion/discussion with an adult, many teen readers will enjoy Dream Treaders, especially boys.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—3.5 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

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