Check out our review of The Dream Runners by Shveta Thakrar, it’s the young adult fantasy to read if you are a fan of Holly Black, Margaret Rogerson and Roshani Chokshi.
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read this book if you’re in the mood for
Trauma, Grief, Kidnapping, Brainwashing
“Dreams are stories, Venkat, and what is a story if not reordering the familiar in a novel form?”The Dream Runners by Shveta Thakrar
Tanvi is a dream runner; a human child brought to Nagalok years ago to collect the dreams of sleeping mortals and bring them back to entertain the serpentine Naga who rule the realm. Dream runners are normally stripped of all their emotions so they can be ‘empty vessels’, but when a harvest goes wrong and Tanvi starts to remember the mortal life she left behind she’s left with only one person to turn to. Will the young apprentice dream smith Venkat be able to help her set things right, or will everything fall apart in the process?
I’ve been interested in learning more about Hindu mythology for a while now (thank you to Roshani Chokshi and the Aru Shah series for that), so it was exciting to have Ms. Thakrar introduce another facet of that. There are so many stories and rich history to be explored in the Hindu culture; I was eager to get to learn about new concepts (nagas, garudas, and the lunar calendar to name a couple of things) while also curious to see a fresh interpretation of more familiar ones (The Night Market has always been a favorite fantasy location of mine).
All things considered, the worldbuilding in this book was top-notch. I think the magic system was my favorite part. It was super cool to get to learn about the dream runners and the dream smiths. Definitely want to note that there are a lot of names from Hindu mythology that are dropped with minimal explanation. Because of that it could be a challenging aspect of the book for those who do not already have a basic familiarity.
In addition to the worldbuilding, the romance between Tanvi and Venkat was another highlight of the book. It’s a slow-burn romance by any definition of the term. The author made it quite enjoyable to watch their relationship progress, and the pay-off towards the end of the book was worth it.
Despite my love of worldbuilding and romance in The Dream Runners, the pacing of the book was what killed things and made it impossible for me to give the book a full five stars. It was unbalanced, at best. The first quarter of the book was so slow – nothing really happened and there was a serious risk of the book being marked as DNF (did-not-finish) because I was so bored.
Thankfully, I pushed through because I thoroughly enjoyed the last three-quarters of the book. I do remember this being an issue I had with Ms. Thakrar’s first book, Star Daughter, so I’m curious about whether it’s a stylistic choice or not. I’m also curious to see what she’d do with the pacing if she was given a full series to play around with (instead of having to limit the storyline to a single standalone novel).
Overall, The Dream Runners was a solid sophomore novel from Shveta Thakrar. A couple of issues here and there, but I’ll still be on the lookout to see what else the author releases in the future. If you are a fan of South Asian-inspired fantasy or fantasy that features mythology at its heart, then this book would be a great choice for you!
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