- Title: The Dream-Maker’s Magic
- Author: Sharon Shinn
- Series: Safe-Keepers #3
- Genre: Fantasy, Romance, YA
- Format: Paperback
- Source: Own
- Reviewed by: Olga
- Rating: 5 out of 5
Description: Kellen’s mother has always insisted that her only child was born male, not female—so Kellen has been raised as a boy. At school, she meets Gryffin, whose mind is as strong as his legs are damaged, and the two become friends and allies. A few years later, the two get jobs working at an inn nearby. When it is discovered that Gryffin is the kingdom’s new Dream-Maker—someone whose mere presence can help dreams come true—he is whisked away to the castle, leaving Kellen behind. By now, their friendship is shading into something more. Will it endure?
A quiet, enchanting book, The Dream-Maker’s Magic is Shinn’s traditional low-key romantic tale. Although, it’s geared towards YA readers, there is no angst, no battles, and no villains. Just everyday life as we know it, with its ordinary ups and downs, petty disappointments, gentle, pastel victories, and veiled disasters. Or at least, it seems so on the surface, but this novel has several hidden layers, and it touches on many controversial themes.
One of those themes accentuates almost everything this writer has written so far: how to be different. In this novel, both protagonists deviate from the norm of their village, as well as of the romantic genre, but despite the adversity of their lives, they manage to keep their dignity and their sweetness intact.
Unlike most romantic male leads, Gryffin is not a muscled hunk. He is a cripple, unable to walk, but with a brilliant mind and a kind, caring soul. His only living relative, an uncle, hates his disabled nephew and often abuses the boy.
The girl Kellen is able in body but damaged inside. Nobody has ever beaten her, but her father left the family when she was very young, and her mother is crazy: she wouldn’t love or accept her daughter; she wants a son, thinks she should’ve had a son, and raises Kellen as if she were a son.
What does it do to a girl to be unable to express her femininity to the closest woman – her mother? Kellen could’ve become much more bitter and twisted if she didn’t meet Gryffin. The union of these two lonely kids seems inevitable, but they both go through a lot of self-doubts and tribulations before they can trust themselves and each other.
The love that develops between them takes time. It doesn’t spring up fully formed out of desire, nor does it stem from the guy’s wide shoulders or the girl’s perky breasts. No, this love comes out of a long friendship, and it seems much more believable than an average romance novel.
The writing is elegant and sparse, with no unnecessary words and no fluff. The narrative flows like a clear mountain brook, gurgling in delight, sparkling with sunlight and an occasional shadow. Despite the tragic protagonists, there is gladness in this story, the deep belief in humanity, even though the action takes place in an imaginary fantasy world.
The magic system is subtle and original, as in almost everything else this author’s written. The world of this book has three types of magic. The Truth-tellers are only able to tell the truth. They always know the truth. The Safe-keepers are the keepers of secrets. And the Dream-makers make people’s dreams come true. But each type of magic comes with a price. For example, the Truth-tellers are usually unpleasant, grumpy people. Nobody welcomes them; nobody wants to hear the truth. And the Dream-makers are unhappy and often in pain in their personal life, their magic seems only working for others, never for themselves.
Overall, this story is simultaneously simple and sophisticated, with multiple subtexts, told by a master. My only objection: there are some didactic paragraphs toward the end of the book, aimed at teenage audience, no doubt, but they are short and don’t detract from this book’s effortless charm.
Note: The cover art of the edition I own is gorgeous.