The Dream Engine by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt- Review

Cover- The Dream Engine

Rating: 3.0/5.0


When Eila Doyle first hears the strange boy calling from somewhere deep in her sleep, she begins to question her sanity. In the gleaming steampunk world of Waldron’s Gate, citizens aren’t meant to dream — and those who eschew their daily Crumble and dare to do so anyway face madness … and imprisonment in Joffrey Columns, the asylum of towers.

And yet, “Dreaming” of a very specific sort is what Eila does every day at the Ministry of Manifestation with her mind hooked to the great engine, called the Blunderbuss. She’s accustomed to using her thoughts to Build all that the city needs … but never before have her thoughts been so dark, so laced with demons and shadows. Now those nighttime visions hint at dark conspiracy, a millennium of lies, and a fathomless secret hiding beneath the quiet streets.

As Eila follows the boy down the rabbit hole, she discovers secrets that were meant to remain hidden. She discovers an unknown caste of underlings, an unknown place underneath the city. And she learns of her terrible destiny as her own dreams and reality blur, as “what is real?” becomes something uncertain.

This thrilling young adult dystopian adventure is the first in the Dream Engine series by masters of story Platt & Truant, authors of The Beam, Unicorn Western, and many more. The Dream Engine will have you asking yourself “What is real?” along with Eila’s strong female lead — but watch what you ask for, because the answer may unsettle and disturb you for weeks to come.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher for my reading pleasure and a review. This is a lovely book, with quite a bit of cover appeal and a snazzy title, both of which automatically draw your interest. The writing was descriptive, with the city, characters and culture painted vividly in the mind, while the story overall was intriguing but somewhat slowly paced.

I started out being really interested in the story line and thus developed high hopes for the outcome of the story, but about halfway through it began to slow. Perhaps it was just me, but I seriously started to lose interest- I would have rather just begun reading another book, but I soldiered on through and finished. The last 10 percent of the book started to pick up in pace and it had a solid conclusion that left me curious about the forthcoming sequel, The Nightmare Factory. To me, the middle part of the book lacked significant plot advancement- sure Eila made some tough choices, but in between those moments I felt as if I were plodding along.

The Guile, which is a rebel group from the city hidden below Eila’s home city of Waldron’s Gate, has designs on making themselves known to those on the top half of the world. You see, where the topside has Builders who construct wondrous devices with their minds, the bottomside has Dreamers who take the dreams from topside and filter them and send up Buildable ideas. Almost everyone on either side of the divide has no idea the other exists and the Guile wishes to change this, so they contact Eila, who can Dream and Build. This is one aspect of the story that I believe could have been improved upon- the Guile had potential to be momentous and world-changing, but they were stagnant and the characters unmemorable.

I wanted so much to like this book, but I just couldn’t because it didn’t stir my emotions or evoke any empathy towards the characters. I like Eila and she was the most developed character out of all those mentioned. If Eila was a riotous flower garden of color, the other characters were shade of grey with a few colors as accents here and there. I feel that there was a considerably more effort spent on the world building and descriptions of places and occupations, which gave the story a whimsical aspect that I really enjoyed. I think that this would perhaps make a beautiful movie where the fantastic visuals described could be fully appreciated.


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