I quite enjoyed the first book of the Remin Chronicles, The Dark Dreamweaver, by Nick Ruth. I received a copy of the book from Sheila Ruth, Nick's wife, and a Cybils cohort of mine, after it was recently released in paperback. The Dark Dreamweaver is a fantasy tale of a boy named David who must travel to another world on a quest. It's my favorite type of fantasy story, one that involves travel in some way between our ordinary world and a world containing magic, ideally with the two worlds having a continued link.
David finds himself dreaming regularly of a scary, dark-eyed creature. The dreams are so frightening, and so frequent, that he dreads going to sleep. He reads in the paper that there have been worldwide complaints about nightmares and restlessness. Eventually, he discovers that the cause of the nightmares lies in another world. David first learns of this other world after he and his parents collect a series of monarch butterfly eggs, in support of a family tradition of observing the entire life cycle of the butterflies. To his astonishment, during the caterpillar phase, on of the caterpillars starts to talk to him. The caterpillar is "a little wizard in big trouble." The wizard, Houdin, has been placed by an enemy under a reincarnation curse, stuck in an endless cycle of egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly. Houdin asks David for his help to break the curse by defeating the enemy, Thane, in the parallel world of Remin.
David, like any right-minded eleven year old, jumps at the chance to help, especially once Houdin assures him that time moves differently in Remin, and he won't be away long enough for his parents to worry. Once in Remin, he finds a magical world populated with unusual creatures, several of whom become his friends. He also gets some on-the-job training to become a wizard, something that he's always dreamed of. David and his new friends embark upon a quest across Remin, in search of Thane, as well as a valuable energy-generator that Thane has stolen. He discovers along the way that Thane's actions are influencing the dreams of people in his own world, creating the nightmares, because of a symbiotic relationship between the worlds involving dreams.
There's a lot to like about this inventive story. There are two sea-serpent spies/gossip collectors named Fred and Michelle who move around the worlds via water pipes, and bicker in entertaining fashion. There's a man named Sir Heads-a-lot, a visitor from yet another world, who carries around a bunch of tiny animal heads and uses them to transform into various animals. I also enjoyed the way that magic is treated in the book - it's real work, requiring focus and imagination, helped out by a sort of pixie dust called spectrum and some very cool magic wands. Finally, I liked the author's reverence for the monarch butterfly life cycles. There's some nice supporting material about monarch butterflies at the end of the book, and 5% of the proceeds from the book are donated to help reforest the monarch butterfly overwintering sites.
Overall, I found The Dark Dreamweaver to be a fast-paced, well-written tale, offering an unconventional take on magic. It reminded me a little bit of Anatopsis, by Chris Abouzeid, which also features a relatively scientific approach to magic. I think that The Dark Dreamweaver will be especially appealing to boys in the nine to twelve age range, particularly if they dream of performing magic or are fascinated by insects. Which is not to say that girls and adult won't enjoy it, too. There are strong female characters, and some lyrical descriptions to balance the fast-paced action. It's well worth checking out. The sequel, The Breezes of Inspire, is also available.
Book: The Remin Chronicles: Book 1, The Dark Dreamweaver
Author: Nick Ruth
Illustrator: Sue Concannon
Publisher: Imaginator Press (see also Sheila Ruth's blog Wands and Worlds)
Original Publication Date: 2004
Pages: 256 (paperback edition)
Age Range: 8-12
Source of Book: A review copy from the publisher
Other Blog/Web Reviews: The World in the Satin Bag and TeensReadToo
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.