Having received a review copy of In Dreams Begin in October of last year, I looked forward to reading Skyler White’s new time travel romance. The write-ups, blurbs and excerpts made it sound really exciting, and I liked the idea of fact and fiction being used to create a story. As any followers of mine know, I interviewed Austin’s best selling occult author, Skyler White in September, and she is obviously passionate about what she has written. It is now mid January, and I have about a dozen pages left until all 375 have been read. One might ask why it has taken three months. I could answer in a long drawn out complicated description, but I will simply state this book is not an easy one to read, and since I haven’t read that last page, I will hold off on my full review until I have.
Knowing that I want to comment and explore other reviews posted about In Dreams Begin, I will be posting at least two articles on my thoughts and feelings of this unusual novel. Without going too much in to detail about what the book is about, here is a quick blurb from Skyler’s website:
“Anchored in fact on both sides of history, Laura and Ida, modern rationalist and fin de siècle occultist, are linked from the moment Ida channels Laura into the body of celebrated beauty and Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne. When Laura falls—from an ocean and a hundred years away—passionately, Victorianly in love with the young poet W. B. Yeats, their love affair entwines with Irish history and weaves through Yeats’s poetry until Ida discovers something she wants more than magic in the subterranean spaces in between.
With her Irish past threatening her orderly present and the man she loves in it, Laura and Yeats—the practical materialist and the poet magus—must find a way to make love last over time, in changing bodies, through modern damnation, and into the mythic past to link their pilgrim souls . . . or lose them forever.”
The basic premise is a present day woman, while asleep, is channeled into a beautiful Victorian freedom fighter during a seance gone wrong. While occupying this other woman, who lived 150 years in the past, she meets and instantly falls in love with WB Yeats. While only days go by for Laura in the present, decades go by for Yeats. This may sound a bit confusing, but so is most of the story.
Now on to the reviews, which there are many to choose from. People either love or hate this book. I will not state which camp I am in yet, but it should become relatively obvious as this article progresses. I’ll start with one of the 5 star reviews on Book Faery .
“I loved that Skyler recreated a person’s past. I loved reading the poems by Yeats, and I loved the story between him and Laura.”
This brings up some very good points about the book. It is very neat that Skyler did so much research to recreate Yeats and play around with his life and how he related to those around him, including his wife. As far as the poetry, which is used throughout the book at the start of every chapter, it was an aspect I could have done without. That fact alone might help distinguish the line between those who loved the story and those who didn’t. If one has no appreciation for poetry (me), that person would most likely not appreciate the poetic prose used through the story. Skyler wrote the entire book as if it were an epic poem. No, the sentences don’t rhyme, but a lot of famous poems don’t.
Many reviewers have commented on how beautiful the prose was, which baffles me. I never thought the writing was beautiful or briliant. I don’t like having to reread lines several times, all the while wishing it were written in plain English. Then again, I don’t like reading Shakespeare either.
“Some will probably dislike this book because of the first person to third person POV shifts.”
I have to admit this was irritating at first, but without these shifts, it would nearly have been impossible to keep up with who was doing what. Laura was always first person, and then all scenes with Ida were in third person. It was still a strange way to write, and I have never seen it done in any book I have ever read. Even the Book Faery reviewer admitted she had to reread a page or two due to confusion.
“Word of warning: if you do not enjoy womanXwoman, then you might not enjoy this book.”
I personally felt this wasn’t even worth mentioning and was surprised it was included in her review. Yes, Ida was obsessively in love with Maud, which started the whole paradox, but Ida has so many things wrong with her that the minor lesbianism aspect was moot. After all, she wants to marry a demon.
“Likewise, if you do not enjoy lots of sex in your books, then you probably won’t enjoy this either. What was in IN DREAMS BEGIN was steamy. Very, very steamy.”
The above comment was why I chose this review for my article. The last sentence caught my eye and made both widen: Very, very steamy. I’m sorry, and maybe I’m jaded, but there was nothing steamy about any of the sex scenes in this book. Using erotic terms does not make sex erotic. The acts were more like an uncomfortable combination of purple prose mixed with a few erotic descriptives, and they all left me cold.
One of Skyler’s favorite moments of In Dreams Begin follows (as excerpted – edited for profanity – from her interview at DearAuthor.com):
“Hello, Ida,” he said. “Welcome to Hell—the place where dreams come true.” His beautiful whisper echoed magic and power in Ida’s clouded mind. “Where we speak with our bodies, and f*ck with our words. Would you like to come and talk with me?”
This is a scene with Ida and her demon, and I’ll admit that it made me smile. They are in Hell, where a large portion of the book takes place. How can a time travel romance take place in Hell? Good question, and the only easy answer I can provide is that it isn’t a time travel romance.
Dirty Sexy Books’ was more in the middle of the road type of review. The reviewer didn’t know quite what to think. She didn’t love it nor did she hate it.
“…it went no where and it did nothing. On that first foray into the past, Laura meets the poet W. B Yeats …while in Maud’s beautiful body, and the reader is supposed to believe that they literally fall in love at first sight.”
If I remember their first meeting correctly, Laura wasn’t quite used to residing in another body yet and responded to Yeats as if she were pulling from Maud’s memories. If that was the case, then wasn’t it Maud whom Yeats fell in love with instead of Laura? The reader isn’t given too much insight into the conversation that inspired this fierce love, which might be a reason why it was hard to swallow. It was something that the reader is just supposed to take for granted, whether or not she felt it possible or plausible.
The most entertaining and blatantly honest review I have read was posted on DearAuthor.com only five days after their interview with Skyler. Though it might be obvious I didn’t much care for the book, I almost feel guilty for admitting to agreeing with just about everything in this review. I honestly wanted to like In Dreams Begin, but it was too hard to read. No book should be so convoluted and complicated that the reader sometimes forgets what the ultimate story is supposed to be about. I have a feeling that Skyler herself got lost along the way.
Since I agree with just about everything, I will only quote the following, which sums everything up quite nicely:
“The book moved at a snail’s pace, and just as something seemed like it was about to happen, or there would be some illumination as to what was going on, the chapter stopped, Laura woke up, Ida cast a spell, or it was time to read some poetry. Ultimately I grew so frustrated that I had to stop reading.”
The only difference is that I didn’t stop reading. I will continue until I finish that last page, even though there were a few times I wanted to stop. I promised my readers and Skyler a review, and that is what I will do. Though I apologize to Skyler up front, since it won’t be a positive one. I am not hating your book at all. I appreciate all the work and research you did. I only wish you hadn’t done so much work and research and just wrote the time travel romance I was hoping and expecting.
Skyler White is the nationally bestselling author of dark fantasy novels ‘and Falling, Fly’ (Berkley, March 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (Berkley, November 2010). She lives in Austin, TX.