Writer: Amber Benson
Publisher: Ace Paperback Original
Publication Date: January 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $15
THE LAST DREAM KEEPER is a follow-up to Amber Benson’s THE WITCHES OF ECHO PARK. Anyone who is familiar with that area of Los Angeles probably wondered if Benson’s first book in this series was fact or fiction. Echo Park is funky and forested and seems entirely likely to host a coven of magical practitioners.
In fact, WITCHES is a work of horror-tinged urban fantasy, with Lyse returning from out of state to tend to her beloved great-aunt Eleanora, who turns out to be Lyse’s grandmother. By the end of that book, Lyse had accepted that she has magical powers and is “blood sister” (a more spiritually-attuned term for a witch) with Eleanora’s Echo Park coven. Lyse becomes the coven’s leader after Eleanora is murdered by her son, Lyse’s uncle.
In THE LAST DREAM KEEPER, Lyse and her coven mates are alerted to the dangers of the Flood, a witch-burning, dimension-spanning group of neo-Puritans who hate magic, self-determination and women, not necessarily in that order. The Flood has some very duplicitous agents who are so effective that at times even the reader can’t be sure what actions the main characters should or should not take.
The action moves from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest to Italy, with a few stops in realms not of this world. Benson’s imagination not only deepens the characters she introduced in the previous book, but introduces us to some new people, several of whom have completely convincing disguises.
There is a wide emotional gamut here, from wonder and love to yearning and loss to horror, not only via chillingly-described torture, but in the iciness of the villains. Additionally, there are a wide range of characters – young, old, single, married, childless, parents, male, female – and multiple sympathetic points of view.
Benson does a good job of providing a textured sense of place as well, so that we get a sense of the hominess of a kitchen and the mysterious dangers of underground catacombs. There’s also a pleasing balance between mythology that we know from real-world folklore and Benson’s specific universe. Lizbeth’s role as the Dream Keeper echoes a bit of Native American belief, while still being unique to the story.
Unlike some books that are in the center of a trilogy, THE LAST DREAM KEEPER is a satisfying story unto itself. It helps but is not necessary to have reach WITCHES, and it teases the next installment, but it also works as an immersive standalone read.
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Article: Book Review: THE LAST DREAM KEEPER