This review is by Frank LaVoie.
I was around since the inception of Dreamworld, Book 1 in Brian Wood’s The Chronicles of Trayvian James.
I’d like to take some credit, but I can’t. I’d like to say that I gave him this idea, or offered an inspiration for that character, but I didn’t.
What I did do was serve as a backboard for high school basketball coach Wood to bounce ideas off of. It was a fun process, listening to him conjure his world and dribbling through ideas as he created one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, a humorous and intriguing Young Adult Fantasy that makes me jealous that his ideas weren’t my ideas first.
Trayvian James is a cleverly wrought protagonist – a young man in his high school years in Unnamed-City, Colorado. Every night when Trayvian falls asleep in the real world, he wakes to the possibilities of magic and swordplay in Havehn – the fantasy world of his dreams.
In one world, he deals with the angst and emotions with which we are all familiar in dealings with teachers, homework, family, and even the opposite sex. His stresses become ours, as that is something so real, we can all empathize. But in the other world, in Havehn, we are thrust as readers into the fantastical and get to experience this new world through the eyes of a real-world persona. Eyes a lot like our own. We discover we can wield magic like no other and joust with swords like it’s an everyday activity. Well, it is.
The Academy in Havehn is nothing like our high schools. At The Academy, Tray learns to become the best of the Warrior Mages and is surrounded by people who frequently find him strange as he adopts and transports our language and customs from modern day America into a realm reminiscent of some of the fantasy greats. Can you imagine Frodo Baggins greeting Gandalf with a, “What’s up dog?” It can happen in Dreamworld, because the protagonist is such a torn value between his varying universes, that sometimes he can’t even remember where he is as the moment, what’s up, what’s down, or what is indeed real.
Wood’s prose is humorous and natural. Who better to understand the voice of a well-read high school boy, than a well-read high school teacher who used to be one? Wood delivers with style the witty nature of his main character using all the tools readers like to see in the genre. Couple hilarious dialogue with the stress of love, then mix in a bit of profound amazement in concern to the shared worlds, and readers get Dreamworld.
Yet, far from just a funny love story, or a fantasy novel with a twist, Dreamworld contains so much more. Wood’s imagination brings us The Darkness, the epitome of evil with which our young hero must struggle. And he’s not alone; Havehn is in jeopardy. With the help of his friends (Damon, the sword-fighting hero we all wish we could be; Trill, the brilliant best bud; and even Claire, the mysterious girl from high school history class), Tray must fight to discover his true nature, his real emotions, and to fight against the very things that threaten what he loves most.
And there’s more.
You’ll never guess how Wood’s tale ends. I challenge readers to get through Dreamworld without begging for more. A standalone piece, no doubt; but Havehn is a place we don’t want to leave, a place where we want to dream ourselves into.
Dreamworld, the first release of this promising series is simply a must read. Appropriate for middle school readers and above, all audiences will find the novel creative, witty, and intriguing at its core.
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