This month Kara picked Dreamwood by Heather Mackey. It’s a middle grade fantasy with a stunning cover. Unfortunately when it was released, it got kind of lost and ended up forgotten. So that’s why I picked it! I had it sitting on my sagging TBR shelf, so why not choose a book that is pretty to look at? It’s just Lyn and me this month.Dreamwood by Heather Mackey
on June 12th 2014
Genres: middle grade
Buy on Amazon
Lucy Darrington has no choice but to run away from boarding school. Her father, an expert on the supernatural, has been away for too long while doing research in Saarthe, a remote territory in the Pacific Northwest populated by towering redwoods, timber barons, and the Lupine people. But upon arriving, she learns her father is missing: Rumor has it he’s gone in search of dreamwood, a rare tree with magical properties that just might hold the cure for the blight that’s ravaging the forests of Saarthe.
Determined to find her father (and possibly save Saarthe), Lucy and her vexingly stubborn friend Pete follow William Darrington’s trail to the deadly woods on Devil’s Thumb. As they encounter Lupine princesses, giant sea serpents, and all manner of terrifying creatures, Lucy hasn’t reckoned that the dreamwood itself might be the greatest threat of all.
Kara: Okay, so the main reason I picked this book, I confess, is because of the cover. I love all middle grade covers to begin with, but this one was absolutely stunning. Even the inside of the book is gorgeous, with all the leaves and everything.
But…this book didn’t blow me away, unfortunately. I just didn’t care about the characters. The storytelling was fun but it felt kind of repetitive. In the end it was just about average for me, and I wasn’t all that impressed. Lyn?
Lyn: The cover for this book is AMAZING. I went into the novel blind, because with that cover, I just figured to leave it up to chance. While I did like the message that the author was sending about not killing everything in sight, overall, the novel was just slow, I really didn’t care for the two main characters, and I had some issues with the Native American people’s village set up like a modern village, and their entire culture was just glossed over to the point of almost ignored.
Kara: Yeah, with that cover I expected it to be magical. And it just fell a bit flat for me. I think the heart of the story (the Dreamwood, the big tree on the thumb, Rust, and all the scenes on the island) was pretty fascinating, but that was the second half of the book, and it took me a while to even get into it. I found the first half boring, and if I hadn’t picked it for Forgotten Fridays, I probably would have put it down.
Can you elaborate more on your issues with the Native American village? Because I thought it was pretty traditional and maybe I missed something? I also thought it was done in a very respectful way, BUT I am not Native American so I would not see the same things that they would.
Lyn: I expected more “magic” as well. And, I agree, I pushed through this to be able to participate in FF. I would have more than likely put this down if this wasn’t a group read.
This might just be my picky side coming through for the Native American people. I was shocked, when the scene was set in the village for the First Village, and they were using safes with keys, wheelchairs, and other Western devices. They were made into a modern people. And I saw very little “Native American” outside of Dreamwood and the raven people. It just felt like a cheap ploy to make the book look like it was diverse. I would have loved if Niwa would have played a bigger part, but she was shuffled off as soon as possible, and the entire scene with the camp, and her own background was just shoddy. I wasn’t very happy with the representation. I felt that it could have used more.
Kara: I definitely agree with you on wanting Niwa to be in it more. And yeah, I can see where using a safe would be weird, but why wouldn’t a Native American person use a wheelchair? What do they do if they have disabilities? Do they have something that they manufacture that they could have used? I feel like Native American Reservations are pretty modernized these days. They have electricity, cable, plumbing, computers, and so I don’t feel like it was that much of a stretch. And also, the whole time they spent in the main building (I forget what it was called–the meeting hall, maybe?) I thought that was interesting how they built the walls with animal skins. But…I definitely would have loved to see more time spent in that village. It’s like I just got a taste of what it could be, and I didn’t appreciate how the Native Americans were made to seem close-minded and unwilling to change. The raven people seemed like villains, and that was very sketchy to me. It was their fault that Rust was infesting the land because they wouldn’t let anyone do anything to fix it. That was…kinda problematic to me.
Lyn: I think that is what bothered me. I felt very unsure of the time line. And, yes, while the Native American people use modern devices, I wasn’t sure if they adapted during the unknown time line. Also, they had to adapt because we took their land. I’m not even sure if it ever came up in the book, but I am pretty positive that the First People would have had that land taken away. Putting a mill on the land and taking down a bunch of trees isn’t something that would just be okay with them. And then, like you pointed out, they can change their way of life, but they are dead set against using nature to fix a natural problem? And then here come the WHITE PEOPLE to save the day, even those these people have been on the land forever! And the raven men should not have been made to look evil. I thought that was unfair, and it blurred the previous message that they were so wise and great. I’m just really in denial that people who lived off the land wouldn’t go over to the island to see what happened, and when the two kids discovered what was causing the trees to fall ill, it was a huge DUH moment. You are telling me that they First People elders didn’t think of this and go check it out?
Bottom line: this book seemed to have The Last Samurai disorder to it: White People come in and save the day! No. I’m not buying that. The First People (Native Americans) were treated like uptight old conservative people, when they were the ones that, historically, were in touch with the land.
Kara: That’s a really great point. It was a bit of “white savior complex” wasn’t it? And I never thought about it that way until you brought it up. I think there was a little more to it because Lucy was also trying to save her father, but yeah. It was a bit problematic now that I think about it.
As far as the timeline, I kind of figure it was set in modern times but in an alternate history. I could have been wrong, certainly, but that’s how I rationalized it to make sense while I was reading.
And I can’t also forget there were some white villains too–the lumber baron and his cronies–so it wasn’t all black and white.
The ending was kind of stupid. I realize this is a middle grade novel, but I thought the twist and the way the book was going to end was pretty obvious from the start. I just like there to be a little more depth, more of an attempt to hide the resolution in the narrative so I actually had something to look forward to.
Lyn: I would have liked this book more if the ending had the darker ending that I was hoping for. But it was way too sugary-sweet, no real consequences in any way. I understand, like you said, that this was a MG book, but just think if that one last DETAIL didn’t happen, and where the author could have taken it. Sometimes, things really suck, and I think that kids need books that show them that when everything falls apart, then other things happen in return. I just thought it was a missed opportunity. Maybe I’m just getting very down here, but, as you pointed out, I would have liked one thing to have taken me by surprise.
I sound like I hated this book! It wasn’t totally terrible! I just saw where it could have been a bit more.
Kara: Yeah, I hate when my comments are overwhelmingly negative and it makes it seem like I hated it, but I didn’t. There was lots of good here, and I mostly enjoyed it, but sadly it’s a pretty unmemorable novel for me considering the books I have read this year thus far.
I think that you may have a point about the ending. I liked the part in particular that you have mentioned, but it would have definitely made it MORE interesting if everything hadn’t been wrapped in a tight little package.
Final rating for me is 3 stars. I liked it but I also had a lot of problems. You?
Lyn: Three for me as well. It wasn’t horrible, but I’m not going to remember this one for much longer. 🙁