Laura comes from a world similar to our own except for one difference: it is next to the Place, an unfathomable land that fosters dreams of every kind and is inaccessible to all but a select few, the Dreamhunters. These are individuals with special gifts: the ability to catch larger-than-life dreams and relay them to audiences in the magnificent dream palace, the Rainbow Opera. People travel from all around to experience the benefits of the hunters' unique visions.
Now fifteen-year-old Laura and her cousin Rose, daughters of Dreamhunters, are eligible to test themselves at the Place and find out whether they qualify for the passage. But nothing can prepare them for what they are about to discover. For within the Place lies a horrific secret kept hidden by corrupt members of the government. And when Laura's father, the man who discovered the Place, disappears, she realizes that this secret has the power to destroy everyone she loves . . .
In the midst of a fascinating landscape, Laura's dreamy childhood is ending and a nightmare beginning. This rich novel, filled with beauty, danger, politics, and intrigue, comes to a powerful crescendo, leaving readers clamoring for Book Two.
Dreamhunter is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
"It is like nothing else I've ever read." Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight Saga
About the Author
Elizabeth Knox is the author of several books for adults, including The Vintner's Luck. Her book, Dreamquake: Book Two of the Dreamhunter Duet, was a Printz Honor Book. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
Read an Excerpt
On a hot day near the end of summer, Laura Hame sat with her father; her cousin, Rose; and her aunt Grace against the fern-fringed bank on a forest track. She watched as her uncle Chorley and the rest of the picnic party passed out of sight around the next bend. Chorley turned and waved before he disappeared. Laura stared at the empty, sun-splashed path. She saw black bush bees zipping back and forth through the air above the nettles and heard the muffled roar of Whynew Falls, where the rest of the party were headed. Laura and Rose; Laura’s father, Tziga; and her aunt Grace were sitting under a sign. The sign read, CAUTION: you are now only100 yards from the border to the place. “The falls are loud today,” Tziga said. “It must have poured up in the hills.” They listened to the cascade pound and thump. Laura, who had never been allowed near the falls, tried to imagine how they would sound up close. Her father said, “Think how startled Chorley would be if one of these girls suddenly skipped up behind him.” Aunt Grace squinted at Laura’s father. “What do you mean?”
“Come on, Grace. Why don’t we just get up and wander along that way?”
“Tziga!” Grace was shocked. Laura and Rose were too. The family had owned a summer house at nearby Sisters Beach for ten years, and at least once a year they would go with friends for a picnic up in the old beech forest. Every summer those who could would continue along the track to see the falls. And every summer the girls were forced to wait at the sign with their dreamhunter parents. Tziga Hame and Grace Tiebold couldn’t go and view Whynew Falls themselves because, one hundred yards from the honest and accurate warning sign, they would cross an invisible border. They would walk out of the world of longitude and latitude, and into a place called simply the Place. Tziga and Grace could no more continue on to Whynew Falls than Laura’s uncle Chorley could walk into the Place. Uncle Chorley, like almost everyone else, couldn’t go there. Tziga and Grace were part of a tiny minority for whom the rules of the world were somewhat different.
“Come on, Grace,” said Tziga. “Why should we make the girls go through all the ceremony of a Try? It’s only for the benefit of the Regulatory Body, so they can see their rules enforced. Why can’t we just find out now, in a minute, in private?”
Rose wailed, “It’s against the law!”
Tziga glanced at Rose, then looked back at Grace. He was a quiet man, self-contained, secretive even—but his manner had changed. His face had. Laura thought that looking at him now was like peering into a furnace—its iron doors sprung open on fire. Her father was a small man. He was a mess, as usual, his shirt rumpled and grass-stained, his cream linen jacket knotted around his waist, his hat pushed back on his dark, springy hair. Laura’s aunt Grace wasn’t any better turned out. Both dreamhunters were thin, tanned, and dry-skinned, as all dreamhunters became over time. Rose was already taller than her spare and weathered mother. She was white and gold and vivid, like her father, Chorley, and like Chorley’s sister, Laura’s dead mother. Laura had, unfortunately, not inherited her mother’s stature or coloring. She was little and dark, like her father. But—Laura thought—her father, though small and shabby, still had the aura belonging to all great dreamhunters. She liked to imagine that the aura was a residue of the dreams they’d carried. For when Tziga Hame and Grace Tiebold ventured into the Place, dreams were what they brought back with them. Dreams that were more forceful, coherent, and vivid than those supplied to all people by their sleeping brains. Dreams they could share with others. Dreams they could perform, could sell.
Laura’s father was saying, “We were pioneers, Grace. You didn’t ‘Try,’ you crept past the cairn beyond Doorhandle early one morning when there wasn’t a soul on the road. Do you remember? That moment was all your own. There wasn’t anyone standing by with a clipboard and contracts.”
Laura saw that her aunt had gone pale. Grace stood up. Laura thought Grace meant to walk away, back toward the road, to go off in a huff and put an end to Laura’s father’s crazy talk. But then she saw Grace turn to look up the track toward the border.
Laura’s heart gave a thump.
Her father got to his feet too.
Rose didn’t move. She said, “Wait! What about our Try? You’ve even bought us outfits—our hats with veils.”
“Rose thinks she’s a debutante,” Laura’s father said.
“I do not!” Rose jumped up. “All right, I’ll go! I’ll go now! I’m not scared. I was only trying to follow the law. But if you don’t care about it, why should I?”
“Good,” said Laura’s father. He offered his hand to Laura. She looked at it, then took it and let him help her up. She busied herself brushing dry moss from her skirt. The others began to amble slowly along the path. Laura caught up with them and gave her hand to Rose, who took it and squeezed it tight. Rose’s hand was cold, much cooler than the air, which, even in the shade of the forest, was as marinated in heat as the open paddocks, the dusty roads, and the beaches of Coal Bay. Rose’s hand was chilly, her palm coated with sweat.
Around the first bend was another, very similar. The track was flanked by black beech trunks. The sun angled in and lit up bright green nettles and bronze shoots of supplejack.
“I guess we won’t see the Place until we’re there,” said Rose.
“That is right,” Grace said. “There’s nothing to see. No line on the ground.”
Tziga said, “The border is around the next corner.”
They didn’t slow, or hurry. Laura felt that their progress was almost stately. She felt as though she were being escorted up the aisle, or perhaps onto a scaffold.
She didn’t want to know yet. It was too soon.
In two weeks Laura and Rose were due to Try. Any person who wanted to enter the Place for the first time had to do so under the eye of an organization called the Dream Regulatory Body. The Body had been set up ten years before. It employed rangers—those who could go into the Place but couldn’t carry dreams out of it—to patrol the uncanny territory and its borders. The dream parlors, salons, and palaces in which working dreamhunters performed had to obey laws enforced by the Regulatory Body and its powerful head, the Secretary of the Interior, Cas Doran. The parlors, salons, and palaces were businesses and had to have licenses. Dreamhunters, too, had to have licenses. A Try was the first step on the road to a license, and a livelihood.
The Body held two official Tries a year—one in early spring and one in late summer. Each Try found hundreds of teenagers lined up at the border. It wasn’t compulsory to Try, but many did as soon as they were allowed, because dreams represented a guarantee of work and the possibility of wealth and fame. Any children who showed an inclination—vivid dreaming, night terrors, a tendency to sleepwalk—were thought, by hopeful families, to have a chance at the life. A dreamhunter or ranger in the family was another indicator of potential talent. More boys than girls Tried, since parents were more permissive with boys, and the candidates were, by and large, in their midteens. The earliest age of a Try was legally set at fifteen.
Rose and Laura had celebrated their fifteenth birthdays that summer.
Walking along the Whynew Falls track hand in hand with her cousin, Laura felt desperately unprepared for an impromptu Try. Every night that summer as she’d put her head down on her pillow, she had mentally ticked off another day— the time narrowing between her and her life’s big deciding moment. She had felt as though she were hurtling down a slope that got steeper and steeper the farther she fell. For Laura knew that, after her Try, she would either be in her father’s world or remain at her school—Founderston Girls’ Academy. She would have a calling or be free to continue her education, to travel, to “come out” when she was sixteen and appear at every ball that season. If she was free, Laura knew she’d inherit the Hame wealth—but not the Hame glamour. And, free, she would lose Rose, because Rose fully expected to walk into the Place, fall asleep there, dream, and carry back her dreams intact, vivid, and marvelous. For Rose had already been into the Place, had been a number of times, because Grace Tiebold had gone on catching dreams when she was pregnant with Rose. (When her sister-in-law Verity said to her, “Did you ever think that you would go there and leave the baby behind?” Grace had put a hand on her stomach and laughed at Verity—also pregnant—saying, “Oh! Darling! What a bloody thought.”)
As Laura approached the bend around which her father had said the border would be, she began to drag her feet. Rose gave her hand a sharp tug. “Come on,” she whispered. “Stick with me.”
“Tziga,” said Grace. “Just tell me this—why now? We could have tried last year, or the year before, or when they were only ten. We could have whipped them across quickly when they were really tiny, and they wouldn’t even have known where they were. We would have learned whether they could cross or not, and just waited to make it official.”
Laura saw her father shake his head at Grace, but he didn’t answer her.
“Why do you need to know now?” Grace asked again.
Laura gave a little sob of tension. Then she crashed into her aunt, who had suddenly stopped in her tracks. “Jesus!” Grace said. They all stepped on one another. When Laura righted herself, she saw a ranger approaching along the path.
The man came up to them. He looked, in quick succession, surprised, suspicious, and polite. “Mr. Hame, Mrs. Tiebold,” he said respectfully. “Good day to you. Are you going In?” Then he looked beyond the adults at the two girls. He stared pointedly.
“No, of course not,” said Grace. “We are just waiting for my husband and our friends. They went along to the falls.”
“I see,” said the ranger. He stood blocking their path. He cleared his throat. “Perhaps it would be wiser to take these young ladies back to the sign.”
“We do know exactly where the border is,” Grace said, frosty. “It isn’t as if it moves.”
“It is very well marked,” Tziga said, neutral. “We’re not likely to make any mistakes.”
“But you can’t always keep your hand on your children near the border—best not to go too near.” The ranger was quoting a bit of the Regulatory Body’s official advice, saying something he no doubt had to say to many people on his patrols. But because he was addressing the undisputed greatest dreamhunters—one of them the very first—he at least had the decency to blush. “I’m very sorry,” he said.
“We’re not dopes, you know,” Rose said, indignant. “Laura and I are Trying in two weeks, for heaven’s sake. Why would we spoil that by sneaking across now?”
“It is better to be careful,” the ranger said. He focused on a point above Rose’s bleached straw sun hat and composed himself into a stiff state of official dignity. He looked block-headed.
“Come on, girls,” Grace said. She turned Rose and Laura around and propelled them back along the track.
Laura swallowed hard to suppress her sigh of relief.
The ranger hovered for a moment. He seemed to realize that Tziga Hame meant to stay put, so he followed Grace and the girls.
† † †
At Whynew Falls, Laura’s uncle Chorley Tiebold filmed the other picnickers as they requested. He shot them pointing up at the waterfall, wet from spray. He filmed them jostling and giggling at the pool’s edge.
When he was finished, Chorley packed up his movie camera, hoisted it onto his shoulder, and followed his neighbors back along the track. He was itching to return to his workshop in Summerfort, the family’s house at Sisters Beach. He wanted to see whether he’d managed to capture on film the scales of shadow pushing down the white face of the cascade. Chorley picked up his pace to catch up with the others. He passed the orange-painted circle of tin tacked to a tree trunk—the border marker. He went on a few steps, then for some reason glanced back. He saw the track, tree ferns, gray, knotted sinews of a redbush vine. Then he saw a flicker of color and shadow in the air, and his brother-in-law, Tziga, materialized on the track behind him.
Chorley flinched. He had filmed this phenomenon—people passing into and out of the Place on its busiest border post, the cairn beyond Doorhandle. It was Chorley’s best-known film; he’d sold copies to all corners of the world. Everyone wanted to know just what it looked like—and that it didn’t look like trick photography. It didn’t. It was a quiet, unfussy, terrifying sight. The only time Chorley had seen it and hadn’t felt frightened was when, shortly before they married, he and Grace had played a stalking game in the long grass on the bluff above the river at Tricksie Bend. Grace, inside the Place, hadn’t known where Chorley would be outside of it, and he hadn’t known where she would emerge. She jumped back and forth, sometimes startled to find he was close by and could grab her. It had made Chorley anxious, made his heart ache to see Grace come and go like that—go where he couldn’t follow. But it was magical too.
“There you are,” said Tziga. “You always come last when you’re carrying your camera.” He stepped around Chorley and walked ahead of him, turning back now and then to speak. Looking up, for Chorley was quite a bit taller. “You know—there’s far too much interest in Laura’s and Rose’s Try,” he said.
Chorley couldn’t remember anyone mentioning the girls’ Try at the picnic. Not even Rose, who grew more excited the nearer the event came. He said, “I may be following you, Tziga”—he poked his brother-in-law with the legs of his camera—“but I don’t follow you.”
“There’s too much interest in the outcome of their Try. That’s all I’m saying. I don’t want them besieged with publicity, or contracts.”
“That’s why we’ve bought them hats with veils, to keep their faces out of the newspapers,” Chorley said. “To keep it all as private as possible. We could, at least, all agree to do that much. You do realize that I’ve been trying to talk to you—and Grace—about this for months now?”
“I know. But there was never any question that they’d Try as soon as the law allowed.”
Chorley took one hand off his precious camera to grab Tziga’s arm. “I questioned it,” he said. “The law can say what it likes, but I think they’re still too young.”
“They want to Try,” Tziga said. He looked very unhappy.
Chorley said, “Rose wants to—Laura just doesn’t want to be left out.” He watched Tziga’s face go remote. Even Chorley, who knew his brother-in-law better than anyone, couldn’t tell whether Tziga was offended, angry to be told something about his own daughter that he should know himself, or whether he had just dropped down into a colder and deeper reach of his usual sadness. “Tziga,” Chorley said, and gave the arm he held a little shake. He was annoyed with himself for poking the chisel of his complaints into this crack in his brother-inlaw’s certainty. “Look,” he said, “it’ll soon be over. It’ll be decided one way or the other.”
Chorley told Tziga to get a move on. The others would wonder where they were. “You do know it will be all right whatever happens,” he said as they went along. “I’m not a dreamhunter, and I’m all right. Grace and you are dream-hunters, and you are too—all right, I mean. Aren’t you?” He gave Tziga yet another chance to confide in him, to tell him why, lately, he’d seemed so hunted.
Tziga just made a faint affirmative noise, then asked Chorley if this was the camera Chorley wanted him to take into the Place.
Chorley immediately forgot his worries. “Yes,” he said. “Are you saying you will? Finally?”
Tziga said yes, he’d take Chorley’s camera In tomorrow.
Chorley was rapt, and for the next hour, long after they’d caught up with the others, he talked. He gave instructions, advice, almost gave a shooting script for the film he most wanted to make but couldn’t make himself.
Tziga interrupted only once, when they reached the cars, which were parked at the gate of the farm beside Whynew Falls Reserve. He said to Grace, “There he is,” and tilted his head in the direction of a man in a duster coat, a shadow against the tangled trunks of the whiteywood forest.
“He’s seeing us off,” Grace growled.
“Who is it?” Chorley asked.
“A ranger,” said Rose.
Chorley saw Grace give Rose and Laura a sharp look. The girls got into the car. Chorley said to the dreamhunters, “Do you think that ranger is watching you?”
“Of course not,” said Grace.
“Yes,” said Tziga. “I’m being watched. The Regulatory Body has a big investment in me. Contracts. That sort of thing.” He made one of the gestures peculiar to him—seeming to crumble something in his right hand and cast it away into the air. Then he went around the front of the car to crank it for Chorley.
Excerpted from Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox.
Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Knox.
Published in 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
"It is like nothing else I've ever read. The characters are so real, you'll feel like you know exactly what they look like and how their voices sound and what they would say or do in any given situation. More than that, you'll want to hang out with them. Then the world is so amazing and unique. You will want to go there. You will want to walk into 'the Place.' And you will want to sleep in a dream opera."--(Stephenie Meyer, The Twilight Saga)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Very rarely are authors able to invent a truly original fantasy, and even among that group, only a select few are able to take that original idea and make it into a compelling, well-written novel. Fortunately, both are definitely the case with this book. Knox, who is usually an adult writer took a stab at some young adult fantasy fiction and has executed it brilliantly. The world is tangible as are its rules. The characters are real, and are involved in more than 'banding together against a great evil to save the world', which is an all too-often used plot in fantasy books and young adult books alike. There are many subplots, factions between the characters, and political and historical intrigue throughout the text. The relationships between characters is as complex as the characters themselves, and, in many ways, this reads like excellent fiction that happens to be set in a fantasy world. The aesthetics, dialogue, and use of language is, to Knox's credit, written splendidly. I recommend this book to all readers 13+, and I hope the sequel will be just as good. -Lindsey Miller, www.lindseyslibrary.com
Personal Response:This is a very thought provoking book. It has elements of both science fiction and fantasy but is not a light, quick read. The story challenges the reader to analyze whether the dreams, which can be very pleasurable, are really a good thing. The dreams are a form of escapism in some forms and this can happen in real life too. Curricular/Programming Connections:Read with a SciFi/Fantasy book club
Laura and Rose are best friends, each eagerly awaiting to be chosen to be a dreamhunter and have a future catching dreams in The Place. In the world Knox has created, dreams are caught and sold like rare delectable animals. The quality of the dream depends on the type of story, the clarity of images and emotions, the length of the dream. People gather in huge buildings for a little nap as we would gather in a symphony hall to experience the wondrous dreams. While Rose fully expects to be chosen to be a dreamhunter, Laura is unsure of herself, and both are surprised when the choice is made. Laura follows in her family's footsteps to become a dream-hunter... but the dreams she finds aren't the normal kind.Dreamhunter is like a slice out of reality doused with a bit of magic. Immediately after reading you will desire the sequel, Dreamquake, so be sure to have it ready at hand. Dreamhunter falls in the Young Adult category, but, as with books like the Hunger Games and the Thief, I was able to enjoy it and hold onto it as material good for multiple reads.
A bit of background before we begin: Dreamhunter first came to my attention when I was talking to "Amy" the YA librarian at my place of employ. As a fellow fantasy fanatic she also thought I would admire the writing. I, however, did not remember to write down the title. A bit later, upon hearing about writing troubles I had been having, Amy once again recommended Dreamhunter. This time I immediately put the book on hold. And looking back now I am ashamed that I waited so very long to read it. Dreamhunter is Elizabeth Knox's first novel for a young adult audience, although I feel obligated to point out that the genre label here applies more to the fact that her main characters are teens than anything to do with the novel's subject or prose. She is also the author of several novels for adults. Like so many great fantasy novels, Dreamhunter is set in a world not that different from our own. The one reminder that this novel is not like any other period book set in 1906 has to do with dreams. For a very few people, perhaps one in every three hundred, dreams really are tangible in the Place: a mysterious other-world far larger than the few acres of woodland that in encompasses in the real world. The Place hold dreams. Of the few that can enter the Place, fewer still are able to sleep there and bring the dreams back to the general public where the dreams can be performed in private residences or in a dream palace like the Rainbow Opera--a sort of theater for dreams--for the public good. Dreamhunters, when they have enough skill and talent, can make their fortunes by catching the right dreams. No one knows this better than the novel's fifteen-year-old protagonist, Laura Hame, and her cousin, Rose Tiebold. Laura's father, perhaps one of the best dreamhunters ever, discovered the Place and Rose's mother is another very skilled dreamhunter. But, as Laura and Rose are about to learn, all is not right in their world. When Laura's father disappears under mysterious circumstances she and her cousin set out to find the secret behind not only his disappearance but also, perhaps, the very secret of the Place itself. Aside from its thrilling plot, Dreamhunter is a wonderful novel because of Knox's background work. As soon as I opened this book, I felt like I was immersed in Laura and Rose's world. It didn't matter that I had never heard of dreamhunters, or Tricksie Bend, or the Grand Patriarch because Knox incorporated all of these new ideas effortlessly into her plot. I was hooked, almost literally, for the entire 365 pages of this novel. The writing here is rich without being overdone and beautiful without being conspicuous about it. This story opens in the year 1906. The choice of time period, as well as Knox's writing style bring to mind Garth Nix's powerhouse fantasy novel Sabriel. I loved Sabriel (as I love all of Garth Nix's books), but I might have loved Dreamhunter slightly more if for nothing save its ending--one of the best I have read of late. Laura and Rose's story continues in Dreamquake the conclusion of Elizabeth Knox's Dreamhunter Duet.
I read this series last year and I still often ponder the underlying meanings and philosophies of the story. The characters are deep and though the story is obviously fantasy, the psychological parallels to our world are very realistic. I enjoyed this series immensely, and highly recommend it. As an avid reader who reads over 100 books every year, I found this one to be unforgettable!
I went into the book thinking it was going to be so awesome...and I was disappointed. It's a very slow book. Not exciting. Some parts are hard to understand.
I purchased this book twice and tried to read it both times. I got as far as chapter 7 or 8 and still was lost and no interest was there in the story to keep me reading. This book was a let down.