Book Review: Witch Dreams by Vivian Vande Velde

Witch Dreams cover imageHere’s a guest review by author Christina Hamlett.

Title: Witch Dreams
Author: Vivian Vande Velde
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish (2008)
Genre: YA Fantasy

Where do we really go when we dream? Do we revisit, re-examine and/or reinvent the past? Do we try to sneak a peek at the future? Do we engage in fanciful adventures or pursue relationships that would seemingly never be possible in the waking world? Scientists, philosophers, theologians, astrologers and regular workaday people have long pondered the meanings behind Slumberland journeys. Many, however, might be hard-pressed to come up with the sort of creative spin that Vivian Vande Velde takes in her YA fantasy, Witch Dreams. Specifically, her teen protagonist Nyssa has the ability to enter the thoughts of others as they sleep and, thus, discern their fears, their wishes…and the truths they struggle to keep secret.

In the Medieval village where Nyssa and her family live, however, such unique talents share a kinship with witchcraft and could bring a sentence of death if not suppressed. Nevertheless, Nyssa is determined to obtain a confession from Elsdon, the young man whom she is certain was responsible for the brutal deaths of her parents. The only witness to the heinous crime is her brother Worrell, a lad so shaken by the tragedy that his mind has purposely blocked out the ugliness as a defense mechanism to survive the day-to-day bleakness of life’s hardships.

Velde has crafted a fast-paced, edgy story that artfully balances mysticism with the timeless coming-of-age themes about feeling like an outsider. Nyssa’s lack of companionship only reinforces her feelings of isolation and vulnerability, especially when the enemy she is stalking becomes desperate enough to turn the tables. Although the ending of the tale felt a little rushed and allowed things to fall too easily into place, the foundation has definitely been laid for a sequel or even a film adaptation.

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