Plot Type: Urban Fantasy
Ratings: Violence—4; Sensuality—4; Humor—2-3
Publisher and Titles: Berkley
.5 "A Little Night Magic" in Hot for the Holidays anthology (prequel novella—Jove, 2009)
1 Stormwalker (5/2010)
2 Firewalker (11/2010)
3 Shadow Walker (6/2011)
3.5 "Double Hexed" in Hexed anthology (2011)
4 Nightwalker (10/2012)
5 Dreamwalker (1/2016)
REVIEW OF NOVEL 5: Dreamwalker
All is quiet at Janet Begay’s Crossroads Hotel, where the paranormal is normal, until Emmett Smith, the most powerful mage in the world, arrives to announce his intent to steal Janet’s smart-mouthed magic mirror.
Janet already has her hands full trying to keep her sister Gabrielle under control as well as plan her upcoming wedding to her dragon-Shifter boyfriend Mick and taking care of the weird creatures that suddenly turn up at Barry’s biker bar.
When Janet is knocked out fighting the creatures, she wakes up seemingly in the past, after she and Mick had first met and traveled across country by motorcycle, alone and free. The dream seems so real that Janet begins to forget it isn’t.
The dreams call her back, each one more powerful than the last, until she can no longer distinguish between past and present—and she’d not the only one affected. Janet and her friends—Mick, Cassandra, Nash, Gabrielle, Coyote, the dragons, and Fremont—must band together to thwart this greatest of magics before it splits them into fragments and leaves the world vulnerable to the most evil of evils.
The straightforward plot centers on Emmett Smith's attempts to take possession of Janet and Mick's magic mirror. At the end of the previous novel, Smith, who calls himself the Ununculous (the most powerful mage in existence) discovered that Janet possesses a magic mirror and warned her that he plans to take it away from her. According to the rules of this magical world, the mirror can change owners only after the current owner(s) are dead, but Smith claims that he has a magical work-around that will allow Janet to live. Janet, of course, tells Smith what he can do with his proposal, and the action begins.
Then, Janet begins to have a series of dream-walking experiences. Each dream walk is triggered by a major injury, during which her body lies in a coma while her mind wanders off to incidents from her past. Some of the injury events are woven naturally into the plot, but some (the demon attack, for example) seem like scenes that were sitting in a file on the author's desktop and were just inserted without much planning or fine-tuning.
At first, the dreams are perfect flashbacks to the happy days of Janet and Mick's early courtship as they bike across the country. Then, friends and family members appear in her dreams. Sometimes events play out just as they did in the past, but other times, things happen differently. When Janet returns to consciousness, she realizes that the people who appeared in her dreams were also dream-walking, and they remember the dream events just like she does. Now for the big question: Who in the world is causing Janet to dream-walk? Of course, Smith is the prime suspect because if he can kill Janet in the dream world, she'll probably die in the real world. Smith denies his involvement, but Janet doesn't believe him for a minute.
Basically, then, this is the plot-construction pattern: Janet and Smith have a facedown in which Smith threatens Janet and vice versa. In a soon-to-follow scene, Janet gets injured and has a dream-walk. Janet regains consciousness and resumes her ongoing struggle with Smith. Repeat the sequence several times. In some dreams, Coyote pops in to invoke some bits of sage, but ambiguous, advice or, in cases in which Janet's injuries are severe, to save her life. As in all flashback/dream-trope plots, the dreamer is supposed to learn some life lessons from the dreams, but those lessons are not really clear to the reader (at least not to me). Eventually, Janet has a gigantic epiphany and figures out what she was supposed to learn, but that doesn't come until the very end of the book so you have to read through multiple dream sequences that frequently seem purposeless and rather repetitive in nature (especially the road trip scenes). In the big showdown scene at the end, the author throws in a supernatural deus ex machina to solve Janet's biggest problem—always a sign of a tortured ending.
In one of the secondary story threads, Gabrielle learns a hard lesson about the consequences of her reckless use of magic. She also finds romance. In another slender thread, Drake decides to make a major change in his professional life. And then there are the story lines involving Janet's father and his upcoming wedding and Janet's own romantic relationship with Mick, who is trying to deal with the fact that Janet's life span will be so much shorter than his. Should he shorten his own life, or should he figure out a way to lengthen hers? Both are risky.
This is my least favorite of the STORMWALKER books because it seems to be an indulgence on the part of the author—an attempt at deepening her lead character at the expense of the simplistic plot, which is based mostly on tired tropes. It might have worked better as a brief novella, but it lacks the substance of a full-fledged (and full-priced) novel.
Click HERE to read or listen to an excerpt from Dreamwalker on the novel's Amazon.com page by clicking either on the cover art or the "Listen" icon.
In addition to Stormwalkers, the supernatural population of this world includes Nightwalkers (vampires), Firewalkers (dragons), Changers (shape shifters), witches, mages, and various gods and goddesses.