Linda Hawley, Dreams Unleashed, Book 1 of The Prophecies Trilogy, Nouveau Publishing Company, 2011
I saw Linda Hawley’s book mentioned on Twitter and was intrigued by the title, so I downloaded the Kindle version. It was the first time I had read a full length book on my iPhone. I found the story well written and gripping. I would willingly advise people to read it and I will certainly read the next book in the trilogy. Having said that, a couple of things troubled me in the book and in my relationship to it, so I will try to explore them in what follows.
The story moves backwards and forwards from a future present to several recent pasts. At first I was troubled by this shifting in time. It wasn’t too difficult, however, to ignore the confusion it caused in me because the story was sufficiently engrossing that I quickly forgot about my momentary feelings of being lost. Later I noticed that the author had put clear markers in the chapter titles to let the reader know what time the chapter took place in. It was then that I realised that I had not been reading the titles as, at a cursory glance, I mistakenly took them for being similar. If I had been reading the print version, I might well have glanced back over the contents page to compare chapter titles, but as this was my first experience reading an ebook I was concerned I might lose my place in the book.
The more I read of the book, the more I had a niggling feeling that the story was yet to begin. Great care was taken in describing the main character and her relationships to those around her: her colleagues at work, her family, her friends where she used to live and her dog. From time to time, I wondered why certain episodes of her life were described in such detail, but that they were didn’t disturb me so much as they were well crafted and brought the character and her surroundings alive. There were moments when the story accelerated brusquely, carrying the reader away in a whirlwind of breath-taking action. Then things settled back to a more sedate rhythm. As a dystopian novel, Dreams Unleashed, bears the tell-tale marks of deep-seated anxiety that has its roots in the ever-growing threat of the nameless, faceless authorities to its citizens. In many such novels, the Hunger Games, for example, that anxiety chases the reader forward through the story. In Dreams Unleashed, we are periodically reminded of this tension but it tends to fade from view when relationships and dinner and the character’s dog get the upper hand.
When the book abruptly came to an end with a screaming cliffhanger, the underlying feeling of coming up short finally took on a tangible form. It was as if the book had ended before it had really got underway. To say so is unfair on the author. As I have described above, the book is full of all manner of things and the story is gripping. The only explanation I can find for this mismatch lies in the balance between story telling that is static, that builds on description and memories from the past, and breathtaking action that drives the story forward helter-skelter to the catastrophe everyone is expecting yet earnestly wishes to avoid.