“We are made by what we are asked to bear, Ling Chan,” he’d said.
This review contains *spoilers*.
I was really hesitant about wanting to pick up Lair of Dreams because of the new cast of characters. But, wow, I definitely needn’t have worried.
A lot of the characters were right up my alley, particularly one named Ling Chan. She was snarky, witty, and everything I needed to keep flipping page after page.
In my review for The Diviners, I wrote that I wanted to visit the girl with the green eyes in the next novel and color me surprised when Ling turned out to be said girl. And, of course, also a dream walker that can speak to the dead.
“Ling didn’t know why she had the power to manifest the spirits of the dead inside dreams. They didn’t come for long—usually just long enough to answer the question posed to them, and then they were gone, back to wherever their energy was scattered.”
Diviners were big and getting bigger, but so far, no Diviner was bigger than Evie O’Neill—better known now as the Sweetheart Seer.
“The cabbie cleared his throat. “Say, uh, ain’t you the Sweetheart Seer?”
Evie sat up, thrilled to be recognized. “Guilty as charged.”
“I thought so! My wife loves your radio show! Wait’ll I tell her I drove you in my cab. She’ll have kittens!”
“Jeepers, I hope not. I’m all out of cigars.”
After a supernatural showdown with the Pentacle Killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, earning the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.
Despite my initial hesitations, I really liked that the focus shifted to the minor characters. Evie in Lair of Dreams wasn’t really as compelling as she was in the previous book. And like I mentioned in my review for The Diviners, Ling and Henry were really to my liking. Ling had the tendency to be quiet and keep her thoughts to herself. We were alike in that way.
Piano-playing Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret—for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City. There were no presenting symptoms, no fevers, aches, or cough. People simply went to sleep and did not wake up.
And so, the first time Henry and Ling met (in real life) was pretty fascinating, if I do say so myself.
“Do excuse me,” Henry said, walking to the back. He came around the screen and stood beside the girl’s table, his shadow falling across her open book. “So you do exist.”
The girl looked up at him. Her eyes were a hazel-green, greener in the light. Though she was a slight girl, there was something of the boxer’s quality to her, Henry thought; this was someone ready to show knuckles at a moment’s notice. Her mouth opened in an O of surprise, and then, just as quickly, she caught herself.
“I’m afraid you have mistaken me for someone else,” she said with pointed politeness.
“I don’t believe I have. I’ve seen you in my dreams.”
The girl gave him only a disdainful upward glance. “Corny.”
And when they met up a second time while dream walking, I was ecstatic:
“What’s it like to speak to the dead?” Henry asked at last, a stab at conversation. “Is it frightening?”
“They don’t scare me. They only want to be heard. Sometimes they have messages for the living.”
“‘Marry on the eighth day of the eighth month of next year.’ ‘This is not the time to test your luck—you must wait one month.’ ‘Tell him I know—I know what you did,’” Ling said, recalling some of the information she’d carried back from the dead.”
I love it when books feature stuff like this. It’s my Achilles’ heel.
And I got really weak when we were told more about Ling’s history:
“But the worst part was the pain it brought to her parents. Ling could hear them just outside the door, asking the doctors and nurses again and again if there was any new hope of a cure, or at least an improvement.
Stop hoping, she wanted to tell them. It’s easier that way.
Secretly, she thought: I deserve this. I brought it on myself. No matter how much Ling believed in science, in the rational, she couldn’t escape the clutches of superstition, of luck—both good and bad—shaping her life. After all, she spoke to ghosts. Deep down, she couldn’t help thinking that it was her pride that had brought on her illness.”
She broke my heart with that last sentence. I love her character arc so damn much.
Also, the concept of dream walking kind of reminded me of the movie Inception, which I found such a fascinating idea to explore in writing.
Then the story circles back to my favorite guy – the dashing Sam Lloyd- and his ‘relationship’ with Evie. And let me tell you, Libba Bray sure knows how to keep a girl happy:
“Consider it done. And, of course, we’ll want to arrange press for the happy couple.”
“Oh. Well, gee, I-I don’t know. It’s all rather new,” Evie said. Her voice had gone high, like she’d been given ether.
“Nonsense.” Mr. Phillips glowered, his bushy brows coming to a terrifying, angry V mid-forehead. “We’ll arrange it. The public’s appetite must be fed. I want you and your fellow”—Mr. Phillips stole a glance at the newspaper story—“Sam out as often as possible. Every night if you can. Now that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are in Europe, Americans are hungry for a modern couple to take their place.” He lowered a finger at her. “You two are it.”
Everyone loves a great romance (especially one with Sam Lloyd).
I mean, their first outing as a “couple” had me almost on the floor.
“Every head turned as Sam rose to greet Evie.
“Lamb Chop!” Sam clasped her hands and gave a small sigh.
“Makes me sound like dinner,” Evie muttered through clenched teeth.
“Does it, my little Venison De Milo?”
Evie glared. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
Sam whispered into her ear, “More than you can imagine.”
A waiter appeared. “Shall I bring you the Waldorf salad, Miss O’Neill?”
“Yes, thank you. And coffee, please.”
Sam gave a small sigh. “Usually I feast on our love, but since the lady’s having something, I’ll take a Reuben. Extra horseradish. And an egg cream.”
“As you wish, sir,” the waiter said. “You two must be very happy.”
“Over the moon. Who’d’ve thought a regular schmoe like me could land a gem like Baby Doll here,” Sam said.”
Literally cry-laughing over this. My love for fake dating in books is literally out of this world.
“By the way, we’re being watched.” Sam flicked his eyes in the direction of a table full of gawking flappers whispering excitedly to one another.
Evie raised an eyebrow. “No kidding. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, you know.”
“We should give them a little something for their trouble.”
“Such as?” Evie said, wary.
Sam leaned forward and took both of Evie’s hands in his. He stared into her eyes as if she were the only woman in the world. Like a traitor, Evie’s stomach gave a slight hiccup.”
And not to sound insensitive, but Jericho’s reaction to Evie and Sam made me roll my eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.)
“Jericho dropped the newspaper in Sam’s lap. “When were you going to tell me?”
“Gee, Freddy,” Sam said quietly, pushing the newspaper aside. “I, uh, didn’t want to rub it in.”
“Seems exactly like something you’d want to do. And don’t call me Freddy.” Jericho crossed to the fireplace, poking at the embers till they blazed.
“Did you ever consider that maybe you got me figured all wrong?” Sam said.
Jericho didn’t turn away from the fire. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got you figured exactly right. You’re a thief. You steal things. And people.”
Usually Sam enjoyed the friendly competition over Evie’s affections, but just now, he felt like a real heel. He didn’t know exactly what had happened between Jericho and Evie. Maybe they’d kissed. Maybe more than that. But whatever had taken place was a romance of circumstances, he was certain. Surely Jericho had to know he was all wrong for Evie.”
Insta-love isn’t love. And I was really hoping that the phony romance between Sam and Evie would give Jericho time to lick the last of his wounds and move on.
A girl can hope, right?
But back to my favorite “it” couple, I have to mention this next part:
“I’m sure we’re all dying to know how you two lovebirds first met.”
“Well—” Evie started.
“It was a moonlit night,” Sam interrupted. “A full moon, as I recall. Just the prettiest September moon you ever saw. I’d lost my dog—”
“Right. I was calling, ‘Here, boy, here, Sparky!’”
“It was the most heartbreaking sound you ever heard,” Evie said. “I wanted to cry just hearing it. I still want to cry when I hear Sam’s voice.”
Sam raised an eyebrow at Evie’s jibe. She smiled back. The smile was a challenge.”
Those pretty idiots. I’m still reeling from that interview.
“Yes. It had been a long journey from Ohio. Not that Sam minded what I looked like. He was just so surprised to be talking to a real girl. Girls don’t usually talk to you, do they, dear? Poor baby just never had a bit of luck with the female species. Why, it was almost as if dames were repulsed by you, weren’t they, darling? Didn’t you tell me they’d shrink from your touch?”
“But you could see the good deep in my heart, couldn’t you, Pork Chop?”
“Yes. I had to look with a magnifying glass, but there it was.”
(Side note: does anyone else think that Sebastian Stan is the perfect Henry?)
And speaking of perfect… I absolutely loved Theta and Memphis in this sequel.
“We could make our own stories,” Memphis said. “You and me.”
For a week, Memphis had been rehearsing this speech in the bathroom mirror. But now all his words failed him. So he took Theta’s hands in his, watching the light sweep across the room. “Theta…” He cleared his throat, started over. “Theta, I love you.”
Theta’s smile vanished. She didn’t answer.
“That wasn’t quite the response I was hoping for,” Memphis joked, but his stomach was as tight as piano wire.
“Gee, Poet. I just… I didn’t expect that.”
“Theta,” Memphis said, “I feel I need to warn you: In about five seconds, I’m going to tell you that I love you. There. Now you know to expect it.”
I was rooting for them with my whole heart.
But while I loved the new set of characters and what they brought to the table, the overall story was really slow going for the first half with little to no action.
I did, thankfully, find the dream walking really compelling— especially when Henry finally met up with Louis:
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Henry asked.
Louis replaced his frown with a smile. “Fine as morning. Kiss me once for luck, cher. And twice for love. And three times means we’ll meet again.”
Henry kissed him till he lost count.”
And in the meanwhile Ling finds a new friend in Wai-Mae.
“That part of the dream isn’t safe.”
“What do you mean? Not safe how?” Ling asked.
“Can’t you feel it?” Wai-Mae backed away, trembling. “Ghosts.”
“I’ve spoken to plenty of ghosts on my walks. There’s nothing frightening about them.”
“You’re wrong.” Wai-Mae reached the fingers of one hand toward the tunnel, as if drawn to it. “I can feel this one sometimes in there. She… cries.”
“A broken promise. A very bad death,” Wai-Mae whispered, still staring into the dark. With a shudder, she turned away, hugging herself. “I’m frightened of that wicked place. If we do not trouble her, she won’t trouble us.”
I, at first, had no idea what to take from Wai-Mae—Could we trust her?? Was she the villain or the hero??
And I quickly learned that, for once in my life, I was right with being hesitant.
“The clues had been there for them all along. George had tried to make her see them. In the tunnel, he’d told her to wake up. He’d wanted her to know about the ghost, to see who it really was.
And who had warned them against going inside the tunnel? Wai-Mae. Wai-Mae was the ghost.
But what if some part of Wai-Mae didn’t know that? What if the dream was her way of fighting that knowledge? Ling needed to talk to Henry, desperately. She wished he weren’t drunk. He’d been so upset about Louis… because Louis never showed up.
Louis, too, never appeared aboveground, Ling realized. Like Wai-Mae, he was always waiting for them in the dream world, shimmering in the sun. Shimmering. Ling’s head went light as she realized at last what had been poking at her these past few days. It was Henry’s comment about the hat. She’d thought it was his. But it had been Louis’s first.
She’d told Henry from the start: She could only find the dead.”
But the dream walkers didn’t know this as Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, until a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess…As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dream-world to save the city?
I honestly thought we wouldn’t have a creepy tune in this book, but boy was I wrong.
“The land is old, the land is vast / He has no future, he has no past / His coat is sown with many woes / He’ll wake the dead, the King of Crows.”
It might just be the spookiest thing in the entire Creepy Crawly.
Speaking of spooky…the section where a soldier came in with a gun pointed at Evie – and Sam saved her -, squeezed the breath out of me.
“Why did you do that today?”
“You’re honestly asking me that?” Sam looked at Evie, and suddenly, she knew. Don’t see me was more than Sam’s Diviner power; it was his entire worldview. It was how he’d gotten along in life, keeping hidden, only letting people see what he wanted them to see. His whole life was a sleight of hand. And he’d risked it all. For her.”
“But right now, in this moment, she felt a strong connection to Sam, as if they were the only two people in the world. She wanted to hold on to both him and the beautiful moment and not let go.
“Sam,” Evie said.
He turned his face to her. His mouth—why had she never noticed how perfect his mouth was? Impulsively, she kissed him once on those perfect lips and stood back, waiting. His expression was unreadable, and Evie’s stomach fluttered.”
I had to fight off tears because my favorites kissed. What is going on.
“Happy Diviner New Year, I guess,” Evie said, a little breathless.
“To hell with it,” Sam said and wrapped Evie in his arms, kissing her fiercely.”
He didn’t just kiss her, he kissed her fiercely. That sure warms the heart on a cold day.
I was literally willing to beg for them to end up happily together.
And, of course, other stories appeared here and there:
- Memphis getting his healing powers back.
- Memphis’s mother trying to stop him whenever he wants to heal someone. (Still gives me chills.)
- Theta and Henry are on the outs because he’s obsessively dream-walking.
- Ghost— scary ghosts, friendly ghosts, hungry ghosts…
- People disappearing all over New York because of some unnameable infestation.
- Louis having an irrational fear of morning glories.
- The crow that followed Memphis throughout The Diviners turned out to be his mother, if I’m not mistaken.
- Two eerily ‘ordinary’ men (Mr. Adams & Mr. Jefferson) follow Sam around.
- Stopping the veiled woman before it was too late.
And there was also so much foreshadowing, I almost couldn’t handle it. I got so stressed every time Libba Bray dropped hints that something terrible was going to happen to a favorite of mine. I kept thinking, are you teasing me or ???
And when some particular plot twists were revealed, it felt as if someone were wringing the air from my lungs. Just…so much happened towards the end that I barely had time to wrap my mind around it. I was so worried for the safety of everyone. They all hold such important parts in unraveling this mystery, and it pained me to see them get hurt.
Also, can we also take a minute to talk about the fact that Sam’s mother appeared in the very last chapter? Because I was just gone gone gone. My heart was hammering like crazy.
“The Shadow Man had left the newspaper. Miriam smoothed out the front page and placed a hand on the picture of her son and Evie O’Neill.
“Find me, Little Fox,” she whispered. “Before it’s too late. For all of us.”
Sam find her safely, please.
There are simply no other words that I could summon to communicate the magic of this story. Lair of Dreams read differently from the previous book. This piece was strange and lovely and haunting.
AND I NEED THE NEXT BOOK!
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