RogerBW's Blog

In Your Dreams, Tom Holt 28 June 2020

2004 comic fantasy, second in the J. W. Wells series. Paul Carpenter continues to blunder his way through magical hazards.

And if he were more interesting I'd like him more, but, well, I really don't. The ideas here are great, but they're filtered through this dullard who pays no attention to them and is completely incurious about the weird things that surround him, until they start threatening him and he finally has to take action. And pretty much everyone here is unremittingly horrible, especially the women. (The exception is the real protagonist, "Mr Tanner's mum", who's constantly pulling Paul out of the trouble his own carelessness has got him into; and of course she never gets a word of thanks, or even as far as I can tell her own name.)

He left her at the front desk and wandered back to his room, thinking, All this and dragons, too. Dragons, on the other hand, were probably something you could learn how to cope with, given time and patient tuition.

Apart from that… well, the writing is excellent of course, and if it weren't for the lack of sympathetic characters I'd rate this much higher. But the usual excuse for a protagonist who doesn't know how the world works is to be an audience substitute who needs to have everything explained, and not only do people aggressively not explain things to Paul, he's distinctly less interested in this world of wonders than the audience is. (Well, they were at least interested enough to pick up the book.) Occasionally he suffers a complete personality reversal, presumably when Holt realised that he does actually need him to do something to make the plot happen other than just sit and wait for the bad guys to win.

Still. The writing is wonderful; Holt is superb at that. It's just the characters and, because the plot is driven by the characters, the plot.

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Previous in series: The Portable Door | Series: J. W. Wells and Co.

  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 12:04pm on 28 June 2020

    I seem to recall Mr Tanner's mum is called Rosie but I can't remember if that's the book that tells us that.

    Paul Carpenter is one of his hopeless heroes who seem to exist primarily for crappy things to happen to them.

    Even the people who aren't hapless (and who get more of the centre of attention in the later J.W. Wells books) are obnoxious.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:20pm on 28 June 2020

    Thanks. Yes, "Rosie" occurs six times in the text, while "Mr Tanner's mum" is used over a hundred times.

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