The cover for The Queen of Dreams is just brilliant. I love the blend of sinister and sweet. It’s also very clearly marked with a big number 1 on the spine, something I wished all series did – it helps booksellers and book-buyers alike. The book is an adventure story where two sisters find themselves in a world they never knew existed until they are plunged headfirst into it.
Taggie and Jemima Paganuzzi are spending part of the summer holidays (when all the best adventures happen) with their dad in his secluded ramshackle old house. It’s hinted at very early on that Taggie may have an unusual ability; she half suspects she can cloudbust, although she wouldn’t actually tell anyone she thinks she can wish clouds away. It’s Jem though that spots the first odd thing that happens at their dad’s. It’s not everyday you come across a white squirrel wearing glasses and talking. Jem chases after the squirrel, but he disappears down the strictly out-of-bounds well. It’s not long before another mysterious character arrives, making the girls more curious about what is really going on.
They don’t have long to wait to find out more. Felix, that’s the squirrel’s name, arrives in time to protect the girls from a squad of four-legged armour-clad creatures wielding cudgels that drag their dad down the well. Taggie and Jem are determined to rescue him. They need a crash course in what’s at the bottom of their well: The First Realm.
The girls quickly find themselves in a world full of Karrak Lords, trickster Gateways, giant turtles, Skymaids, Ethanu and elves. They find out lots about their family history and their own futures. They have to be brave and use all their talents, even one’s they didn’t know they had. The sisters do get on very well together most of the time, but like any siblings they have their moments. As one of four sisters myself, I liked that both Jem and Taggie had to think about their relationship and try to better appreciate the other one.
There are some lovely characters, such as the Queen of Dreams herself. It’s a beautiful idea that she travels through her subjects’ dreams, soothing and comforting them. I also loved the elves, they were not what I was expecting at all. Of course, having two girls as the main characters in an adventure story gets my approval too.
I was totally drawn in by the beginning of the story. It moves quickly from the ordinary world of school holidays to an unusual one. It did start to lose my attention a little bit somewhere in the middle, although I’m not exactly sure why. It maybe meandered away from what I thought was the main plot. But, I loved the last third; it’s very exciting and filled with adventure. The characters come into their own too, making plans and being rather heroic. And the ending is completely awesome.
The Queen of Dreams is by that Peter Hamilton, adult sci-fi author. This is his first book for kids, and the fact that its inspired by wanting to tell a story for his own children melts my heart. It's available now in hardback and eBook from Doubleday, and is the first in The Books of the Realms series. I think both boys and girls aged 7+ will enjoy it. The chapters are not too long so it would be fun for grown-ups to read aloud with kids too. The second book in the series will be called The Hunting of the Princes, although I've not seen a publication date for it yet. My copy came courtesy of the publisher.