Nolan Erling doesn’t know what to make of the annoying headaches and dreams he can’t quite remember. But dreams soon blend with reality once Nolan meets Aeryn Sandman, a girl who opens his eyes to the wondrous Dreamstream and the powerful abilities he possesses as a dreamer. Aeryn is a junior recruit of the DREAM Institute, an ancient, covert organization tasked for millennia with protecting the human race in their peaceful slumber. Her first assignment—to recruit Nolan—quickly goes off the rails when Nolan’s uncontrolled powers accidentally trigger the release of two deadly creatures locked away in the dream world. While they battle across dreamscapes to defend the dreamers caught in the crossfire, they unravel a web of betrayals trying to cripple the institute, and Nolan learns that the danger in the dreamscape can be perilously real.
There’s a lot of imagination injected into THE DREAM DEFENDERS, and one thing is certainly true: it’s never short on pure fun. Real-life consequences and heart-stopping moments keep the narrative grounded. The story lingers on believable emotional stakes where it matters—in Nolan’s compelling relationship with his baby brother, in Aeryn’s love for her family, in the friendship between Nolan and his eccentric neighbor. But between the fast-paced chase scenes and thrilling twists and scuffles with the villains, THE DREAM DEFENDERS’ strongest quality is its incredible creativity. There’s shades of Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl tucked away in here, lovingly nestled among fanciful dreamscapes and quirky dream creatures.
The premise is exciting and original, the worldbuilding and layers of the plotline intricately strung together. There’s so many rules to the dream world and dastardly alliances that it both enhances the story and becomes a little difficult to follow at times. While the novel does feel somewhat overlong, and the ending—especially the final clash with the villains—breezes by compared to other stretches of the plot, the action moves just as swiftly as the Dreamstream itself. It’s full of memorable characters and laugh-out-loud wit, sure to enchant young readers with a fantastical adventure.
A wild, imaginative adventure told with creativity and heart, THE DREAM DEFENDERS will captivate readers both young and old.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader