The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

I picked out a book at the library the other day because I liked the cover and the title. It's called The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dalhquist and the cover looks like this; a sort of dreamy, smoky, blue image of a train and a few people standing around wearing cloaks. The library had tagged it with a little label that said "historical fiction" and had a picture of a covered wagon. I don't want to micromanage my library but calling this book historical fiction works about as well as labeling Frankenstein as a contemporary romance when it was published would have, instead of science fiction or horror or however you personally like to catalogue it. Interestingly the publisher has listed The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters as suspense and adventure, a much better choice if you ask me because this book is filled with both, along with a good dose of mystery, intrigue and strange science.

The book tells the story of three very different people, Miss Temple, a somewhat spoiled aristocrat, newly arrived from a beautiful and luscious island; Cardinal Chang, a man from the very bottom of the social strata with damaged eyes trying to make a living as a detective of sorts (or possibly an assassin or a combination of the two); and Dr. Svenson, royal physician to a dissipated and corrupt prince. This extremely unlikely trio meets as a result of something almost trivial: Miss Temple's fiancé vanishes from her life then sends her a note breaking the engagement and "closing with the politely expressed desire that she take pains to never contact nor see him in any way for the complete remainder of her days." At first she is so upset she takes to her bed and cries for one day but then she gets very angry and wants to know why. Where has he been and what exactly has brought about such an extreme change of heart?

She follows him to a country house where she discovers a murder and a scientific process that is as frightening as it is bizarre. Captured and questioned by one of the leaders of a cabal, she barely escapes as a result of the violent deaths of the two men ordered to kill her. As she staggers onto the train to go home, filthy, tattered and covered in blood, she meets Cardinal Chang who is intrigued yet respectful of what he sees. When Chang is hired to find the bloody girl he too is swept up into mystery and conspiracy.

Dr. Svenson, who seems a cold and stiff figure when we first meet him, is actually a complex and haunted man, trying desperately to save the honor of his country. When the Prince he is looking after vanishes from his rooms one afternoon the doctor is bemused to discover a glass card hidden in a vase. As he looks into the card he is immersed in a scene taking place between the Prince and a woman, from the perspective of the woman. Compelling and overwhelming, the card seems to be a physical embodiment of the woman's memories of the event. As the trio meet and investigate it becomes clear that these memories trapped in glass are being used to hypnotize and drug the ruling powers of various countries for nefarious purposes.

This is a complex, intricate book that was a delight for me to read. At nearly 800 pages it's not a quick read; it's more the kind of book where you lose yourself in the story for a week or so and come out blinking at the real world, sorry that you had to come back. I particularly liked Miss Temple, a charming and determined girl who threatens to set someone's hair on fire when he betrays them. That's the kind of heroine I can root for.

You can read an excerpt, starting at the part where Miss Temple decides to find out for herself why Roger, her fiancé, has broken off relations with her, thus beginning an adventure that will throw her into terrible danger and teach her that she is far stronger, capable and cunning than she ever dreamed. The link is here. You can also play an online game as one of two characters, Cardinal Chang or Miss Temple by clicking here or you can read a newspaper describing some of the events in the book here.

One-Sentence Review

This week's one-sentence review is from WT who has this to say about the YA novel A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence "An interesting book about a boy who finds parallel realities but the ending is horrible and destroys everything the book meant." Have you got a one-sentence review? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.