RogerBW's Blog

The Night Shifters, Emily Devenport 27 September 2020

2010 fantasy. Hazel's mother told her never to give up on her dreams… but turns out she didn't quite mean it in the usual way. Hazel is a Grand Champion Dreamer, and when she wakes up in the Night she's going to have to prove it.

Dream fantasy has an intrinsic problem: if anything can happen, then any bad situation can be receoved from and nothing matters, so there's no tension. This is a book that gets round that: all sorts of things can happen, but they work by rules, which Hazel has to learn if she's going to survive.

And of course there's examination of her own traumas and nightmares (I've never had the at-school-unprepared-for-the-exam dream but clearly many people do) and Hazel ends up coping with those as well as with the straightforward opposition – not to mention that everyone who's giving her information has their own ideas about what she should be manipulated into doing.

And there's mild fourth-wall-breaking without it feeling forced or look-how-clever-I-am: the idea of the Chorus turns up personified, and there's even something of a well-foreshadowed deus ex machina.

But mostly I'm impressed with a fantasy of dreams that doesn't get cutesey or fall into generic imagery. This reminds me of the more phantasmagorical moments of Diana Wynne Jones, and I have very little higher praise than that.

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