Middle Grade Review: The Dreamweavers (G.Z. Schmidt)

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About This Book:

Twin siblings sneak into the emperor’s palace to break a curse in this Chinese folklore-inspired fantasy adventure set in the Ming Dynasty.

Twins Mei and Yun can’t wait for the Mid-Autumn Harvest Festival, even though strange things keep happening in their village. A gloomy atmosphere has settled over the land and their grandpa’s usually delicious mooncakes instead taste horrible and bitter, insulting the prince who tastes them.
 
Determined to clear grandpa’s name, Mei and Yun journey through the City of Ashes, visit the mysterious Jade Rabbit, and encounter a powerful poet, who makes them a pact: infiltrate the royal palace to expose a past royal injustice, and the poet will remove the curse that has ensnared their grandfather and village.
 
Seamlessly weaving together folklore, palace intrigue, and historical detail, G. Z. Schmidt delivers an unforgettable adventure set in the Ming Dynasty about sibling bonds and the importance of the past. The beautifully illustrated cover by artist Feifei Ruan shows the twins riding a floating cloud, whose softly curved edges shine with printed gloss. An enchanting experience, The Dreamweavers is perfect for young fantasy readers.

 

 

*Review Contributed by Mark Buxton, Staff Reviewer*

Dreams have the power to change the future.
 
What worked:
The main conflict involves a curse from seventy years ago. A gifted writer named Lotus spurns the advances from a Noble General, and the general doesn’t take the rejection kindly. He frames Lotus’s husband for treason and has him executed by morning. With the help of magic from the Jade Rabbit, Lotus’s emotions get out of control and bring a curse upon the City of Blossoms. Its new name is the City of Ashes and no one from the city has been seen since that day. However, somehow the curse has started to spread to the surrounding area which includes the village where the main characters named Mei and Yun live.
The book allows readers to learn about the Chinese culture, as folklore is the backdrop of the plot. Many stories have been written about the Jade Rabbit, and his relationship with the characters expresses some Chinese beliefs. The story depicts the cultural distance between royalty and peasants, as villagers feel powerless against the emperor, his family, and the military. The book also shows the secret issues and injustices in the palace history, as the characters try to make things right. They learn to be judged by their own actions and not by the actions of their ancestors.
The twins embark on a quest to break the curse haunting their village, but their true motivations are to clear their grandfather from being wrongfully arrested and to locate their parents. Their mother and father haven’t been seen since visiting the City of Ashes years before. The author skillfully weaves the different conflicts together to create an engaging adventure mystery. The twins are aware of the truth, but proving it to people in power is a monumental challenge.
The contrast between the personalities of Mei and Yun causes clashes until they’re able to appreciate their differences. Mei typically takes action without planning, while Yun uses his knowledge and logic to analyze situations. Mei’s emotions might get them into trouble, but too much thinking by Yun might lead to nothing getting done. They’re separated once they arrive in the emperor’s palace, but their unique differences allow them to forge new friendships and allies.
What didn’t work as well:
The concept of dreamweaving is abstract and takes a while to understand. Even the twins have trouble comprehending the ability, and they’re the ones able to do it. Inferences can be made, but fully grasping the concept takes most of the book. The entertaining aspect is watching the twins learn by experience and putting the pieces together along with them.
The final verdict:
Dreams have the power to change the future. Once the backstory of the curse is established, the personalities of Mei and Yun are highlighted. Their struggles to right past wrongs will entertain lovers of folklore and the Chinese culture.
 

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