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TANDEM REVIEW: “The Dream Alchemist” by Joanna Chambers

 PersonalizedBannerTracy PersonalizedBannerSheri


When the sun goes down, their passion awakens…and so do their nightmares.

Centuries ago, a man with Bryn Llewelyn’s dreamwalking ability would have been a shaman or a priest. In this time, he’s merely exhausted, strung out on too much caffeine and too little sleep.

Sleep means descent into Somnus—an alternate reality constructed of the combined dreaming consciousness of ordinary humans. A place he’d rather avoid. Trouble is, his powers don’t include the ability to go without sleep indefinitely. At some point his eyes close…and his nightmare begins.

As a teen, the treatment that cured Laszlo Grimm’s sleep disorder stole his dreams—and his ability to feel emotion. Petrified of needing more “treatment”, he clings to familiar rituals and habits. But lately his nightly terror has returned, and when he meets Bryn in the real world, the man seems hauntingly familiar. Not only that, Bryn awakens feelings in Laszlo for the first time in years…

Slowly Bryn and Laszlo realize they are both unknowing pawns in a plan of unspeakable evil. And that their powerful attraction could release the destinies locked within them—or be the instrument of their doom.


Describe this story in a few lines.

Tracy: The first time Bryn meets Laszlo, it’s in a dream. That meeting starts the chain-reaction of realizations, as Bryn learns his skills in dreamwalking run much deeper (and dangerous) and Laszlo finds that he can’t run from his dreams any longer, especially if it means risking never seeing Bryn again.

Sheri: A bit of Sci-Fi, a dash of fantasy, and a sprinkle of magic, this story is remarkably unique. Somnus is a place where dreamwalkers drift while sleeping. Bryn and Laszlo cross paths in Somnus, but Laszlo has no recollection of their encounter. Their memories may not match, but their attraction is indisputable. When they stumble upon each other in the real world, emotions become heated. Bryn does not know what’s going on, Laszlo has no clue, but together they are determined to discover the truth.


Thoughts about Bryn & Laszlo? Individually? Together?

Tracy: Bryn was very likeable and it was easy to follow his journey, whether it was in the real world or when he was dreamwalking in Somnus. I felt less connection to Laszlo, where much of his journey was focused on coming to grips with who he really is. Together, they were fun, although I’ll admit, it felt pretty “insta”, so much so that I wondered if there was some greater meaning to their instant attraction–like if they had met before in Somnus, but couldn’t remember. So far, that hasn’t been spelled out.

Sheri: Bryn is a dreamwalker. We soon find out, he’s a miserable dreamwalker. He can’t explain the changes he’s undergone the past few months, but one thing he can’t deny is his fear. His one and only confidant recently passed and he’s heavily burdened with grief. He is strung so tight, he feels everything and yearns for oblivion. Laszlo feels nothing. He has gone through great pains to guarantee he has zero emotions. When a stranger stirs something in him, he can’t stop the awakening no matter how hard he tries. Together they are intense and fierce. Their attraction burns quickly and ferociously. Could the key to one another’s troubles be the other man?


What did you think of the world-building?

Tracy: Somnus and its rules were interesting, and it was easy to follow along. I did feel there was some over-exposition to explain things at times though.

Sheri: I thought the world-building was inquisitive, with every answer came another question. It was somewhat heavy and broad. I wasn’t swept into Somnus as I had hoped. I felt as though the many illusions kept me on my toes, but I was never immersed into the dream world. I craved more vivid figments. Not to say it wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t captivating.


What were the positives of the book?

Tracy: Fun ideas, and good tension built up as Bryn and Laszlo are automatically pulled closer and closer to danger when they enter their dreams.

For those who are nervous about their couples and the endings, readers should feel safe here. Chambers does not pull a “Provoked” with this volume. (I say that will love, BTW.) :-)

Sheri: Despite some frustrations, I truly did enjoy it. Only one of its kind in the m/m romance genre and it has the potential to grow and enthrall. I believe it could bud into much more. The first book in an alternate reality is always challenging. Now that we have the basics of the supernatural powers and possibilities of the future of Somnus, I think (hope) the focus will hone in on the relationships. I loved the finer details of dreamwalkers with the special ability to alchemize. I thrived on those particulars. AND…it had some pretty steamy scenes too.


What were the negatives of the book?

Tracy: I found this book a bit frustrating, but I’m not sure how frustrated I’m supposed to be.

I like the pacing at first as the novel’s world unspooled and you tried to figure out what was going on, but it did feel very “well-paced” or a little slow in development. Around 60% or so, I started thinking that I must be in a first book of a trilogy or a multi-book character arc, because I wasn’t getting a feeling that we would get much character development in this first book. I was a little frustrated because it felt like much of this first volume was set-up, and didn’t feel like a solid story on its own.

The last quarter, things speed up, but then I felt frustrated because it was almost too fast after that first half, and felt a bit anti-climactic after all the build-up before then.

I honestly don’t know what to think of the book. Will Bryn and Laszlo have their story continue in book 2? If so, I feel more forgiving and will just wait for things to be developed further.

But I got the feeling that their love story is done at the end of this, even though so much of the novel felt like setting up something much longer. Side couples are also introduced here, so I’m wondering if the side couples are now going to be main characters in the next volume. If so, I feel more frustrated because I didn’t feel enough development with the first couple, and don’t really care about the side couples.

So for me, it was hard to understand how this first volume fit. It felt like mostly set-up, but then a fast close-up for the MCs. Will we get more with them to match that set-up? If so, I’ll look forward to that. If it’s progressing on with the conflicts between the side characters, then I care less.

Sheri: I believe for a successful alternate realm there must be is a delicate balance between heavy world-building and the thrill factor. Unfortunately, I think the story was missing that. There certainly was an intricate construction of Somnus but it didn’t have the excitement to push you through those moments of slow building. It became rather ‘deep’ at times and it was lacking that drive to push forward. Almost as if information overload became quicksand and without much excitement you could easily become…stuck.


Final rating and would you recommend this?

Tracy: 3.5 stars. An interesting and imaginative read. Those who like sci-fi-ish/speculative fiction with their m/m may dig it.

For me, the frustration over the pacing, the slow and then fast development, and the uncertainty of how things will progress make me pause when thinking about whether I should continue to vol. 2. I guess I’ll wait for the blurb. If it’s jumping to the next couple, I probably won’t continue.

Sheri: A solid 3 stars. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t charmed. I think the writing was solid and the characters were strong, but I was disappointed with the abrupt ending. Just as things were coming together, it was over. It concludes with a play-by-play for the sequel and I’m afraid it may jump to another couple, which I think would be a disadvantage for the series. I have a feeling this series will be stronger and more enjoyable in it’s entirety.


RATING:  3.5 STARS (Tracy) / 3 STARS (Sheri)


Susan: 4 stars


22922375 (3)Title: The Dream Alchemist (Somnus #1) 
Author: Joanna Chambers
Publisher: Samhain
Pages: 223
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Purchase Links: Samhain, Amazon, ARe

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This entry was posted on December 8, 2014 by in PNR / UF / SF / DYS, Reviewer: Sheri, Reviewer: Tracy and tagged , , , .

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