The Book of Dreams
By O.R. Melling, 2003
Reviewed by Donna Quattrone
O.R. Melling’s The Book of Dreams is the latest installment in the YA series entitled “The Chronicles of Faerie.” Characters and events from The Hunter’s Moon, The Summer King and the Light-Bearer’s Daughter spill over into The Book of Dreams, but each of these books is written so that it may also be read on its own.
The Book of Dreams is a story centered around Dana, a young girl who has moved from her beloved homeland of Ireland to live in Canada with her father and his new wife. Dana believes in faeries, (her mother is one, after all), but she hasn’t yet learned to believe in herself. She is faced with the challenge of starting High School friendless and, to make matters worse, it turns out that her ninth grade teacher, Mr. Crowley, is a real terror.
Crowley is the embodiment of the evil that longs to split the world asunder and squelch all dreams by closing the portals that link the earthly realm with that of faerie. Not only would the ensuing imbalance be detrimental to both human and fey, but it would also mean that Dana would be cut off from her mother and the forays into the glowing land that comforts her when the human world gets overwhelmingly lonely or boring. As it is Dana’s destiny to be the primary person responsible for keeping the portals open, she receives the full brunt of Crowley’s malice, which continuously and with rising intensity follows the young girl as she searches for The Book of Dreams.
As the evil rises, so do Dana’s allies. She falls in love with a handsome lone wolf (pun intended) named Jean, garners new friends both young and old, finds humor, comfort and a lost secret among her family and discovers magic in the land where she now lives. It is a world in which trolls ride trains, favorite aunts wear glamour to go clubbing, grad students participate in their own ballads, and one can row a canoe that rides on air.
Place and time are fluid in The Book of Dreams, a factor which allows for a quest that has few boundaries. Spirit journeys, car rides and lucid dreaming are all equally valid means of transportation, and the destinations within this tale aren’t always a place that can be found in the present. O.R. Melling masterfully steers the adventure rhythm that drives the fast-paced plot of this book, and her academic background, (B.A. in Philosophy and Celtic Studies and an M.A. in Medieval Irish History), contributes towards a work that is rich in resonant mythic imagery, well informed by traditional folkloric tropes and motifs and steeped in wonder every step of the way.
The Book of Dreams is a story shaped by a variety of cultural myths and spiritual beliefs that meet and mingle on a road well traveled. There are stops along the way for poetry and song, feasts and first kisses, and myriad acts of bravery and sacrifice. In the end, Dana is rewarded with a magical sense of the place called home, a deep awareness of family and interconnectedness, and the recognition that Life is indeed a Hero’s Journey.