Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: In Restless Dreams by Wren Handman

Book: In Restless Dreams
Author: Wren Handman
Series: Standalone
Source: author (thank you, Wren!)
Publisher: Wandering Roots Press
Pages: 295
Release: September 7th 2016

Sylvia is just a normal girl with huge, normal problems – her mother’s attempted suicide; how to adjust to life on the Upper East Side; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to fight the other Court, which she has to deal with while trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men – with their own agendas.

**I received a free ecopy in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.**

This is truly a gem of a story, fast-paced with a fantastic protagonist!

Sylvia Hartford has her life turned completely upside-down when she finds her mother passed out in the kitchen. Next thing she knows, she and her younger brother are swept from their small town in Nevada to New York to live with their super rich father while their mother recuperates. Life as a the daughter of a wealthy man brings about a completely difference lifestyle for Sylvia; and as if fighting snobs in her new private school isn't enough, she finds herself caught in the middle of two warring faerie courts, each who want her help to fulfill their own means...

Sylvia was such a great protagonist because she just so human. Right from the start, we got a sense of her humble beginnings, seeing the extent of her love for her family and her methods to staying afloat when everything was going down. Moving to New York definitely pushed her out of her comfort zone, challenging her in ways she never anticipated she would have to deal with. The combination of her relatable voice and her strong sense of right and wrong made her such an easy character to like. She didn't take any crap from others, even challenging the whole social-elite-clique going on in her school. Even though her father's name would have given Sylvia the means to be at the top, she stood her ground when she saw how unfair they treated other people deemed "lower." She wasn't shallow, vain, or obsessed with being liked by the "right" people; Sylvia was honest, just, and genuine, which made her so much more of a strong lead!

The system of the faerie courts is nothing new to me, since I've gorged myself on all stories involving the fae. However, Handman put a very different spin on the familiar concepts I knew about regarding how human dreams suffice the existence of faery worlds, and the difference between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. This book introduced a being called the Phantasmer: a human whose powers are so great, he or she can change the very fabric of the faerie world simply by believing something with their will. I mean, the faerie worlds thrive off belief, so it stands to reason that one particularly powerful person would have the capabilities to alter the worlds completely. Such a brilliant concept!

The romance in this novel wasn't of the typical straightforward kind, which made this such a fresh read. It constantly had me guessing at what would happen. I first pegged the story to be an insta-love kind, but a few chapters later, I figured it would become a love triangle, and then a few chapters after that I had no idea which direction it would go anymore. However, I did have my heart set upon one of the two potential love interests. Without naming them, I'll just say that Character A had a very strong heart, never once lied to Sylvia, and physically fought tooth and nail for her regardless of what it would cost him. Character B seemed genuine, but I was quick to become wary of him, because he seemed way too perfect and was more of the submissive and acceptive kind (though to be honest, I probably would have fallen for him first). Both are fantastic, but I personally preferred one over the other!

Sylvia's powers were very interesting to read about. I definitely sympathized with her in the sense that it would take no less than a miracle for me to believe what once was impossible was possible. You can't just suddenly believe that if you open a door, you'll find yourself back in Faery land. It's not a switch you can just turn on, and I found myself smiling at Sylvia's attempts, knowing she felt ridiculous, but offsetting her disappointment with humour. I have a feeling that once she gets the hand of it, there literally will be nothing she can't do!

Another great aspect about this novel were how both positive and negative relationships are formed and broken. We get to see how family relationships can change for the better and for the worse with Sylvia's family, as well as how friendships can be artificially forged. Sylvia's straightforwardness and cleverness made her a force to be reckon with in school; though she refused to play the game of superiority and got burned a bit because of it, she made sure to get them back on her own terms. She stood up for herself and was devious about it, which I absolutely loved. I definitely would want her as my friend!

This is a fantastic novel, a brilliant mix of contemporary and fantastical issues. It was exciting, adventurous, and empowering. Who says you can't successfully deal with bullies and figure out about the faery world all at once? I honestly cannot wait for the next one, to explore the limits of Sylvia's powers and how she'll handle life with her newfound abilities, and potential consequences to her actions. Plus how could anyone not need the next one after that ominous epilogue? (Also, that cover is gorgeous, so you know you'll want to pick this one up ;) )

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