Evra is a magicless daughter of farmers in a poor village, amongst the country of poor villagers. Almost everyone is born with magic, though the strength of it varies from person to person. Between the king's taxes and his claiming of everyone of strong magical ability, the village is bereft. They do not have the magic they need to keep their crops alive and protect their houses, and they do not have money to buy it from elsewhere. As the only person in their village without any magic, Evra faces a lot of prejudice, and she has learned to fend for herself. Soon, however, she learns that she has a special type of magic that feels like a curse - she is a Clearsee, someone who can see the past and future and speak with ghosts. This power only appears to someone in her line when the kingdom is in danger.
Evra does not understand what the visions she has means, and she faces opposition from Annalise who fears her secrets will be revealed. Although they seem at odds, both young women are each trying to create a better country.
What I loved: This was a slowly building plot with a heavy air of mystery as we seek to unravel the world Annalise has made for herself and the lies that have seemingly become truths. Annalise herself does not seem to know how to separate the consequences of her magic from reality. Both Evra and Annalise were compelling characters. Their ethics and decisions are, at times, twisted, but their reasonings and rationales are described. Although the reader may not agree, they can understand what has led to the present.
This is a kingdom which is suffering. There are some interesting themes of ruling, wealth disparity, and deciding on consequences/punishment that were thought-provoking at times. The making of a villain is another major plot point, and the gray/borderline ethics of Annalise's decisions and magic are present throughout. This was definitely something I wanted to discuss outside of the book, as it's not a simple equation, and I think this would make a great book club read.
I enjoyed the magical elements, as magic manifests differently for different people, and I would have loved to learn even more about its origin and history. The Clearsee magic was particularly intriguing, and I really enjoyed what we do learn about it.
Final verdict: Overall, A SEASON OF SINISTER DREAMS is a compelling YA fantasy. Recommend for fans of FURYBORN, THE QUEEN'S RISING, and SWEET AND BITTER MAGIC.