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Young Adult Fiction 128
interesting premise
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THE DREAM RUNNERS is an intriguing YA fantasy. Tanvi is a dream runner, someone who has had their memories erased and who collects dreams from other humans to sell to a broker for the immortals who use dreams for pleasure. In Nagalok, she barely exists, not tasting food or having conversations or emotions. However, something changes when she is spotted in the mortal world and called Nitya. This event sparks a change in her that leads to something dangerous - a dream of her own.

Venkat was recruited to be a dream runner, but when it did not take, he was kept as the son of Nayan, the immortal naga who rules the dream runners and sells their dreams to the other naga. The naga are at war with the garudi, spurring political moves in the court that Venkat is beginning to understand. At the same time, he feels a connection with the dream runners and wants to help them. Venkat can feel that everything is about to change, and as he notices changes in Tanvi, he must navigate the dream runners and immortal political intrigue amongst the naga.

What I loved: This is a really intriguing story in part because of the inclusion of mythology and the magic of dreams. Themes around the items we value and the lengths we'll go to obtain them cast a light on materialism, symbolism, and value. Questions around who we would be without our memories and the way that even painful ones lead to emotions and character present the reader with something thought-provoking.

Tanvi is a particularly compelling character, as she is beginning to realize who she is and the way the decisions she made when she was 10 have altered her life and her agency. Her journey was one to easily appreciate and want to learn more. Through her eyes, the reader also learns about how family can cut us the deepest and the impacts of bullying and quick decisions.

What left me wanting more: The world-building was difficult to fully understand, and it was easy to get lost in understanding what was happening. The reader may need to repeatedly read different passages and still not fully understand what different elements of this world meant. In this way, the book is a slower read and the world-building is not so smooth. The mythology did not easily correlate to what was happening with the dream runners, and even this was not so clear, so it was easy to get lost with the plot. Even at the end of the story, I was not quite sure that I understand what all was happening or why.

The romance felt really forced, and it would have been helpful to have more building of it or to have left it out, as the connections between the characters just was not quite there, particularly given the difference in mental faculty.

Final verdict: Overall, THE DREAM RUNNERS is an intriguing YA fantasy with thought-provoking themes but that needed clearer world-building to fully understand.
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