One part of the book community that is fun and frustrating is the acquisition of ARCs. Receiving ARCs seems to be more a study in alchemy (all trial and error) and less an exact science. The only ARCs I have ever received I won through a Goodreads giveaway. Recently, however, I have been delving into the world of Book Twitter and the various book tweeters, and through that found a lovely woman who has been adopting out the ARCs she no longer wants: Emma of Miss Print. I have, so far, been lucky enough to adopt two of her ARCs. The first ARC I adopted from her was Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith. I am a couple days late posting this review because the book was released on October 6, 2015, but I hope you enjoy reading it anyway!
I first saw the cover on goodreads. I thought it was absolutely gorgeous and it was part of the reason why I initially wanted to read this book. Having a physical copy in hand, the cover is just as gorgeous as I thought it would be but it's a little creepy too. I will admit though, I still have no idea how the cover ties into the story. I'm probably just missing something obvious though.
Initially, I had a lot of trouble getting into this book. If I hadn't promised Emma that I would review the book, I probably would have DNFed it after the first couple of chapters. That would have been a mistake. It took me about five chapters to be fully invested in the story but after that I was hooked. I think the slow start for me is completely attributable to the lack of world building.
The story is set in world that seems partly medieval, partly Victorian, but mostly something entirely its own. It comes with its own countries, political systems, religious systems, magic, and so much more. My problem with it was the detail, or lack thereof. The world the story is set in has to be self-contained. Almost everything about it is unique to the story. However, there was very little actual world building. This was partly due to the pace. The story was chalk full of action and very rarely slowed down for analysis. It also seemed to me that another reason for the lack of detailed world building was the emphasis on the character driven aspects of the story. There was so much focus on what was happening to the characters and what they were doing that there wasn't any time leftover for world building.
The characters were kind of interesting, but nothing to write home about. Livia was lackluster and I found myself not caring about what happened to her. Marez and Kriza were dynamic. They were really what pulled me into the story. Brandt really pissed me off. Edina and Vera had a lot of potential to be great characters, but I felt that potential was overshadowed by their story which felt thrown in and needed more development. However, Lindsay Smith used her characters masterfully. Their interactions and actions had me pulled into the story. I was completely fooled by the characters and did not see the conclusion coming at all!
Overall, I liked Dreamstrider but I didn't love it. The story had so much potential but fell just short of achieving it. The characters and overall story were the high points. The lack of world building was a serious detracting point though. Because of that, I have to give this story 3.5 out of 5 stars.