The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

My review for The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist spans both Volume One and Volume Two, because really, I figure if you're committing yourself to the first, you should probably accept the second... after all, the book was originally printed as one large hardcover, and it only split into two volumes in paperback.

That said, my big issue was this. Generally, I think one can assume that the period of time in which it takes the events of a book to unfold will be greater than the time it takes one to read it. That might be *barely* true here... but only if one factors in the extra day that passes in the first five pages where Miss Temple absorbs the news that Roger Bascombe has ended their engagement. *Including that*, everything takes place in three days. Three days! That's a lot of pages to chart the course of three days. And sure, we're moving quickly, but I actually found this to be a book rich in detail, perfectly willing to linger over descriptions of people and locations... and the action scenes certainly took double the time to read than they would to actually occur (and oftentimes, you have certain scenes repeated at least twice, as we bounce between the perspectives of three main characters).

All that aside, I did enjoy these books and since I read them in the space of five days, I can reasonably say that they do captivate one's attention. Of course, they do this by such a ridiculous amount of suspense that I didn't feel as though I was eagerly devouring the book so much as I was being forcibly pushed through everything, with the knowledge that if I stopped, I would surely find something amiss and so I had no choice but to power through. There was never a moment of pause as we barreled headlong into an incredibly complicated plot with a long list of characters.

The simple description is ridiculously broad. Three unlikely compatriots find themselves banding together against a sinister group of persons who have a plot to take over the world by mind-manipulation. But that only scratches the surface.

The book opens upon Miss Temple reading a note from her fiancee, informing her in a rather terse note that he is terminating their engagement. She resolves to discover exactly why he has ended things (not out of deep love to get him back, but more with a need for closure), and of course, the most logical way to do that is not to ask him, but to follow him. This propels her (and the reader) into a world that is more and more complicated by the minute, with a "Cabal" of personalities bound tightly together by a fracturing partnership. But she isn't alone -- Celeste Temple forms a strange alliance with two other men as they seek to thwart the evil-doings of the Cabal. Cardinal Chang is a deadly assassin so named for his trademark red jacket and scarring on his eyes that gives him the appearance of being Oriental. Originally hired to kill a man (who turns out to be deeply involved in the Cabal's goings-on), Chang is unable to follow-through on that assignment when he finds the man has been killed for him, but his involvement hardly ends there. Doctor Svenson is a chain-smoking diplomat/doctor who is essentially baby-sitting a prince of Macklenburg (a German duchy) that has become engaged to a wealthy Lord's daughter, and then discovers that the Lord, the daughter, and his own prince all have their roles in this sinister plot. And lest you think this is some simple "take over the world" plot by hypnotising people, the means for mind-manipulation rest in the mysterious properties of "indigo clay" and the amazing glass that can be formed by it as a repository for memories. Such fantastic ideas have a darker side, too -- and the adherents to this "Process" might very well be selling their souls (or at least their free will) over to the leaders of the Cabal.

The fantasy elements are certainly interesting... I was introduced to the phrase "steampunk" by way of this book, and if you know that at all, it certainly applies. It's chocked full of dirigibles and trains, as well as masquerade balls and erotic undertones (without venturing into anything really romantic). It's certainly a wild ride, but I must admit that with the two volumes and all, I was a little peeved to note that there's a sequel that was just published. You'd think that it would at least have the courtesy to conclude its business within those two volumes, but ah well. I'll certainly go on to the sequel, but I predict that it might be trying my patience to do so. But if "steampunk" seems up your alley, then by all means, seek out The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters because it certainly is a creative epic, the likes of which you rarely stumble across on the pure fiction shelves (rather than that of fantasy or sci-fi).

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