Saturday, 17 July 2010

Steve Voake - The Dreamwalker's Child

Acquiring books is often more fun than reading them. I got my hands on this one at an author’s reading, where there was wine, and I had it signed by the author, making it my first ever signed book.

There are a lot of good things to be said about The Dreamwalker’s Child. It has an original story, (insects being piloted by tiny people from another world,) believable characters (which is an excellent achievement considering the influx of child characters who act older than their age) and it’s very clean and well written (in fact, easily the best on this list so far).

However, with all the good bits, (and I will say now that I enjoyed the book), my cynical side came up with a few things worth mentioning.

Firstly, the opening chapter is written in a way more suited to a young audience compared to the rest of the book. The audience seems to be between four and seven judging from the opening page, but later in the novel, a man is torn apart by a giant ant! It’s a bit distant from the ‘colours and sounds and wonderful things’ from the first page.

Early on, there is a formatting mistake with line spacing. This isn’t Steve’s fault, but it does look odd. What is Steve’s fault though, is a line from the lead bad guy Odoursin, where he speaks over a loud speaker to the main protagonist Sam: ‘I know you’re here Sam... I can feel it.’ After I’d gotten over my initial fit of laughter, I was reminded of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker... only we already know who Sam’s father is so unless there is some other deep connection between the two, Odoursin being able to ‘feel it’ is an unnecessary cliché.

Odoursin can also be likened to Hitler with the amount of Nazi symbolism thrown into the bad guys. They dress like the SS and I swear one of them even had blonde hair and blue eyes. This almost led me to believe Odoursin’s main evil motive was to propagate the master race, but that’s a bit heavy for a kid’s book.

As far as the length of the book goes, it’s well paced and spread out evenly over the 300 pages. The only cut I would make would be removing chapter 25 as the stuff about Sam’s parents doesn’t add anything to the story.

The setting was another thing that puzzled me. I had no idea when the book was set and looking at all the cultural references, there is only one that really places the book in any era. It’s really cleverly put in and shows the skill of the author as he doesn’t make any slips regarding setting ambiguity.

I would recommend The Dreamwalker’s Child to any parents with children aged nine plus. And there are some enjoyable bits for adults too. It’s acclaimed to be one of the best books for its target audience and I would agree. Or suffer the wrath of Darth Voake.

The Dreamwalker’s Child by Steve Voake was published by Faber and Faber in 2005. RRP £6.99 (Paperback)

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