[rating:4.5]
Author: G.W. Dahlquist
Series:
Miss Temple, Doctor Svenson, and Cardinal Chang #1
Genre: Fantasy/Mystery
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 753
Published: 2006
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First sentence:

From her arrival at the docks to the appearance of Roger’s letter, written on crisp Ministry paper and signed with his full name, on her maid’s silver tray at breakfast, three months had passed.
Blurb

Following the perspectives of Miss Temple, a young lady recently jilted by her fiancé, Cardinal Chang, a renegade hired to kill a man, and Doctor Svenson, a German doctor sworn to protect his Prince, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters follows them as they strive to uncover a deep and dark secret and perhaps become more swept up in it than they would care to be.

Thoughts

Though I had to force myself to read 100 pages every day to ensure I finished it in a week (and believe me that was a struggle with the tiny text, I was reading for about 5 or 6 hours per day), I did really enjoy reading The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. Despite its’ length and having to push through it, the story is full of constant action and mystery that really had me gripped. I didn’t have a single moment of boredom which I think scared me a little bit because it’s such a long and heavy-going book, but it was so hard to put down and I couldn’t imagine the book being any shorter because everything was interesting and relevant. It just happens to mess with your head a little bit, is all.

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters is very gently steampunk. There wasn’t really a moment that leapt out at me and made me think, “Yes, this is steampunk!” But there are small hints in the styling of the characters, the characterisation of the heroes and heroine (more on this in a moment), and quite late on in the novel you come across a little more that hints towards steampunk, but rather than jumping up and down at you screaming, “I’m steampunk! Look at my goggles and my whacky Victorian style and my dirigibles and.. and.. exploration! See?!” It’s very subtle. It’s also simultaneously quite gothic with how very dark a story it is and with all of the venturing into the unknown the characters do, as well as a nightmareish overtone.

The story in its’ entirety is exceedingly well-crafted. Dahlquist uses wonderful imagery that paints such a clear picture of the visuals, smells, and emotions that it is very easy to lose yourself in the intimacy of the prose. You long to discover the mystery behind everything the characters are discovering and you could never imagine what truly lies within the heart of this book due to its’ unpredictability. It’s extremely dark and dramatic and erotically charged.

Each characters’ individual story is told in turn from their own perspectives. They each get one chapter in rotation and chapters can be as long as 80 pages and very hard to put down in the middle of, which can make it difficult to read if you’re a slow reader. Their stories interweave, pull apart, cross-over, and weave together again and the way in which they have been written is utterly brilliant. Everything feels so real that it’s so easy to forget that you’re reading a work of fiction.

The three characters themselves are a very unlikely group but they fit together so perfectly and have so many depths. Plucky Miss Temple comes across as being very naïve but in reality she is quite smart. She has the odd moment that made me want to scream at her but she manages to pull herself out of so many tough situations and remain reasonably upbeat and I loved her for that. Heartbroken, she is driven towards discovering why her fiancé really broke off their engagement so coldly. Cardinal Chang is a killer, hired to do other people’s dirty work and thus he is constantly wary and very careful, but when his heart comes into play it’s a different matter altogether. And doctor Svenson. He was perhaps the most boring character to read in my honest opinion however he is still a very loveable character, I just didn’t enjoy his perspective quite as much as the others. As an educated man, he is determined to protect his Prince and the reputation of his home country. Feeling as though he has nothing else to live for, he happily throws himself into the fold to see an end to the madness whatever he has to do. Not one of them could ever imagine what they’ve got themselves into when they begin but once they get involved they’re constantly being hunted and they must either see it to the end or run for their lives.

I think The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters will appeal most to fans of literary fiction. It’s a little bit magical realism within an alternate history, but it really is something very unique. It’s heavy going, so if that doesn’t appeal to you then you will most likely hate this book, but if you don’t mind then it is a really fantastic read.

Miss Temple, Doctor Svenson, and Cardinal Chang series:

1. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters
2. The Dark Volume