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The Dreammasters by K.D. Pryor

The Dreammasters by KD Pryor is a self-published gem by a small time writer that absolutely should not go unnoticed.

Aisling Doyle's life is falling to pieces around her; her mother is killed just after discovering her cancer is in remission, Aisling's husband walked out on their 25 year relationship for his assistant just to die in a tragic, violent accident, and she feels her children don't need her as they escape to college. On top of everything, both deaths she witnessed in her unusually vivid dreams the night before -- one of which she may or may not have participated in -- and the more distraught she becomes, the more the monsters of those dreams start to seep into the real world.

Aisling's only option is to travel from the states to her mother's home in Galway, Ireland with the hopes that her aunt and grandmother can shed some light on these potentially dangerous dreams. There, she falls into a world of Celtic gods and goddesses, creatures from fairytales, and an unseen world full of magic, mystery, and darkness that she must learn to navigate quickly if she's to survive.

Based on the publisher's description and the somewhat young adult style cover art, I expected much less of this novel. I expected an easy read, maybe a YA or New Adult type of fantasy. I was so happily surprised to find myself sucked into such a complex, well thought-out novel about a 46-year-old learning about a magical heritage with a ridiculous amount of research done on Celtic myths, all presented in a surprisingly well-written urban fantasy novel that I couldn't put down. The way that KD Pryor turns the now generic "16-year-old meets supernatural 1000-year-old and falls in love while trying to save the world" young/ new adult fantasy completely on its head is phenomenal. This really is the adult version of the young adult urban fantasy/ paranormal romance novels we all love.

The juxtaposition of the two worlds -- the real world and the dream world -- and the bleeding lines in-between the two create a depth to each relevant scene that intrigues the reader more and more. It leads us to wonder which way the world is about to sway: more towards the magical, light-hearted dreamworld or towards the stark intensity of the real world. The pieces of information learned by the main character -- events unfolding, backgrounds being revealed, etc. -- were all so intense by themselves, and the author delivered them bang bang bang one after the other just short of being overwhelming. It kept the rhythm of the book exciting, even during the slower contemplative moments, and I had to keep reading. I'm glad I read this on my Kindle while traveling and at the gym and whatnot, so I could binge read anytime I had a spare moment.

The cast of characters as a whole is incredible, too, not in that I personally like every single one, but in that they all serve their purpose in the main story while maintaining their individuality. Every one of them can be described as both chaotic and predictable, strong and weak, relatable and unrelatable, all because they come across as so painfully human; They are highly complex, with their own personal thoughts, feelings, and goals that may or may not be relative to Aisling's story. My favorite character is probably Aisling in relation to the other characters. On her own, I find her self-doubt and turmoil hard to read -- not that it isn't relatable or realistic; in fact, it's probably because of how relatable and realistic her heartache is, given the understandable roots of her issues -- but, when Aisling interacts with the other characters in Ireland that are so stable in who they are and where they fit in the unusual community, it brings out the parts of her personality that want to learn who she is on her own. Stabilizing-Aisling is my favorite for the moment, and I look forward to her coming into her own strength in future installations. As for favorite relationships, of course I like the guys. Tommy is so sweet. Though it's hard to pinpoint his true and/or equivalent age amongst the cast, he fills multiple roles as caretaker, supporter, friend, father, and more. I also love Fergus, because of his intrigue. He has such odd mannerisms and he has this immediate PG, Mr. Darcy-style romance with Aisling that I am OBSESSED with, by the way. Fergus leaves more questions than answers that we haven't asked yet, because why question someone who's just so charming!

So many surface level aspects of this book point towards what's become a fairly common trope amongst paranormal stories with romantic elements, especially those centered around women "coming of age". The lone fact that she alters this the characters to be significantly older -- in this case the woman "coming of age" having already lived a normal life with a career and husband and grown adult children -- is notable commentary on the genre. Then, adding in all of the much more adult problems with the life experiences of an adult creates anew layer that freshens what would otherwise be fairly common. The Dreammasters really does well at entertaining Celtic mythology and bringing fantasy into the real world in a very woman-centric way, but at its core, it reminds readers that growing into your true self can happen at any time, in any place, at any age. Just because onehits their forties doesn't mean that they can't find magic in their lives and themselves, or that they can't redefine who and what they consider to be home.

Anyone that fell into the young adult urban fantasy/ paranormal romance boom spurred by titles such as Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare, and others published in the early 2000s will appreciate reading this book, as it has a similar tone, yet is very purposefully geared towards adults. Any fan of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray would equally enjoy The Dreammasters, and vise-versa. They aren't books, but fans may also appreciate watching or attending a performance of Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty, two excellent classic ballets by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (composer of The Nutcracker.)

The worst section of the book is the very, very end... why? Because the book ends!! The cliffhanger is ridiculous! And now I have to wait at least a year -- likely more with book publishing tendencies -- to read the next one! I immediately signed up for the author's newsletter (visit her website at www.kdpryor.com) to a. be notified when her second in the series comes out, and b. to receive an electronic copy of her related novella, which I can't wait to start.

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