The opening of Dreamwalker by Rhys Bowen and C.M. Broyles felt a little slow and familiar. It opened as so many juvenile fantasy books do, with an orphaned child shuttled off to a boarding school because the surviving relative is too busy to deal with them. However, it wasn't long before I was caught up in this first book in the Red Dragon Academy series. By the end of the book, I was impatient to return to this remarkable world created by the mother/daughter team.
Addy Walker was just an ordinary seventh grader in California until her mother died of cancer, leaving her with a British aunt Addy didn't really know. And, her Aunt Jean was impatient to pack her up and return to London. But, school had already started, and the only boarding school to be found was one in Wales that promised to "teach manners". But, when Addy arrived, she discovered the Red Dragon Academy was housed in a run down old asylum, and had bars on the windows. And, school seemed no different here, where the popular girls looked down on the newcomers.
But, the food was unusually good. And, the teachers, particularly the principal, Miss Neves, seemed odd. Every day was different, and there were horses, and archery. And, then there was the "haunted hallway". It all seemed so strange. But, in some ways, Addy, who dreamt about riding a red dragon, and facing a frightening man and nightmare horses, found it all vaguely familiar. It seemed as if she had seen some of this in her dreams. And, when Addy and six of her classmates answer an unusual call to appear for a teacher, Addy wonders what they all have in common. It will take a frightening, haunting experience to start to answer that question.
Bowen and her daughter, Broyles, launch a fascinating series set in Wales. Most readers will be unfamiliar with that country, but it's an appropriate setting. And, my original complaint that the opening was so familiar? I'm not the target audience, a ten to thirteen year old discovering a fantasy world. As readers explore this new series, it only makes sense that Addy, and some of her friends, have been orphaned. It's a motif in many fantasies; a hero or heroine left alone to find their role in the world.
Without going into too many details as to Addy's abilities and those of her new classmates, or the world they enter, let me just say Dreamwalker is a perfect introduction to the Red Dragon Academy fantasies, and a strange world where the good are in hiding. As Addy and her friends grow in their abilities, it's obvious they will eventually end up trying to save another world. And, it's obvious I can't wait for the second book in this compelling fantasy series.
Rhys Bowen's website is www.rhysbowen.com
Dreamwalker by Rhys Bowen & C.M. Broyles. Red Dragon Press. 2014. ISBN 978150102057 (paperback), 268p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.