Author: Lindsay Smith
**I received a copy of this book through NetGalley which does not affect my review**
The Land of the Iron Winds has its eye on the Barstadt Empire. The Ministry works to protect the empire from invasion, their tools are espionage and dreamstriding. Livia is the only dreamstrider in Barstadt, able to take control someone else’s body while they sleep. But something is awry in the dreamland known as Oneiros and Livia finds herself fighting for Barstadt on both fronts. With her best friend, Brandt, at her side and help from representatives from the small Farthing Confederacy, Livia must discover just what plans the Land of the Iron Winds has in store and stop them before they invade her home.
I feel the need to start off by saying Lindsay Smith’s Dreamstrider has one of the most interesting and gorgeous covers I’ve ever come across. In this imaginative world, dreams hold a special place in the hearts of Barstadters, seen as a gift from the Dreamer, a divine being who protects the people and who is credited with slaying the terrible Nightmare. Livia, once a lowly tunneler, is discovered to have a gift for dreamstriding and now works for the Ministry as an agent. Because of her origins, Livia is regarded by many within the Ministry as inferior, despite being the only one capable of dreamstriding. She struggles with confidence, cognizant of her own limitations and the ever-present chasm between her and Brandt, her partner who is destined for an aristocratic life. I liked Livia’s growth throughout the novel as she learns to trust in herself and let go of past failures. Despite this, the novel does little to explore Livia’s past which subtracts from her character considerably. There are certain unresolved issues missing from her story, mainly what happened to the family she left behind when she joined the Ministry. I found her lack of concern for her siblings inconsistent with the generous nature she shows toward others.
I wasn’t a big fan of Livia’s two love interests as neither is very interesting. Brandt, Livia’s constant for the past several years, comes across as one-dimensional. He has no character arc himself and his only function is to be the object of the main character’s affections. Marez, a Farthing delegate Livia is assigned to work with as both regions try to find a way to stop The Land of Iron Winds, is supposed to represent different possibilities for Livia, not just romantically, but also philosophically. Unfortunately, his immediate interest in Livia comes across as disingenuous and with no natural progression to their relationship, I didn’t feel at all invested in the two of them. Several other minor characters also felt incomplete and there were a lot of missed opportunities for many. Professor Hesse, the man who discovered Livia’s rare talent and whose experimentation led to dreamstriding, makes only a few appearances, but his expertise on Oneiros and manipulating this odd land would have helped with the world-building for this novel.
Overall, though I enjoyed exploring concepts like dream manipulation and possessing someone else’s body, Dreamstrider could have been better if its characters were more well-rounded and the world-building had a more complete foundation.