Title: The Dream Runners
Author: Shveta Thakrar
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mythology
Published: June 28th, 2022 (HarperTeen)
Synopsis: Seven years ago, Tanvi was spirited away to the subterranean realm of Nagalok, where she joined the ranks of the dream runners: human children freed of all memory and emotion, who collect mortal dreams for the entertainment of the serpentine, immortal naga court.
But when one of Tanvi’s dream harvests goes awry, she begins to remember her life on earth. Panicked and confused, she turns to the one mortal in Nagalok who might be able to help: Venkat, the dreamsmith responsible for collecting the dream runners’ wares and shaping them into the kingdom’s most tantalizing commodity. And as they search for answers, a terrifying truth begins to take shape – one that could turn the nagas’ realm of dreams into a land of waking nightmare.
Thank you to the publisher, HarperTeen, HCC Frenzy, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ever since she was taken to the realm of Nagalok seven years ago, Tanvi has been one of the dream runners, human children who collect mortal dreams that are greatly prized as entertainment in the naga court. Dream runners are made free of all emotions and memories of their lives on earth, but when one of her harvests goes wrong, she not only runs into someone who seems to recognize her, but also begins to remember flashes of her old life. In a panic, she approaches Venkat, a dreamsmith who collects the dreams brought in by the runners and shapes them to sell to the Nagas, hoping that he will have a solution. Their search for answers however, leads them to uncovering a deadly plot that could lead to the destruction of Nagalok if they can’t stop it in time.
Having enjoyed the author’s previous book, Star Daughter, I was very excited to see that she had a new book and added it to my TBR at once. The concept of dream runners reminded me a little of The BFG, though a more YA version of it. The setting of Nagalok was a fascinating one and I loved the descriptions of the court, culture, food, clothing and more. However, I do have to say that the world building was very surface level and there wasn’t enough focus given to it. In fact, if I didn’t know my Hindu mythology as well as I did, I would have been quite lost with all the references and lack of explanation.
The characters, unfortunately, did not add much to this story in my opinion. Tanvi and Venkat were both likeable but they just didn’t stand out enough to me. We see the entire story from Tanvi’s POV, and the fact that her inner dialogue doesn’t really change too much for most of the book, resulting in the lack of a solid character arc. I suppose a large part of this was also because both of them keep thinking that they should do something to figure things out and fix the situation, but don’t actually get around to doing anything until the last 10-15% of the book which made this a rather frustrating read from a character perspective.
Conceptually, this story had a lot of potential, but I felt the execution was a little weak. For one, with the amount of plot there was, this could have easily been split into two books allowing for some more exploration of the world and characters. There were several points in the story where I finished a chapter and expected the book to be coming to an end, because it would have been such a perfect place stop at, only to realize that I was barely 50% of the way through. And second, while the pacing was pretty good and not slow by any means, the ending was definitely rushed, and it didn’t live up to the depth of the conflict that had been built up throughout the book.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but I feel the idea behind the story had a lot more possibilities than were explored. While The Dream Runners didn’t live up to the author’s previous book for me, I did like the writing and narrative style, so I will keep an eye out for future books by this author – it’s so lovely to see this representation in YA, there isn’t nearly enough of it! Readers who have a background in Hindu mythology will probably find this an easier read, but I would still recommend it for fans of the genre.
The Dream Runners releases on June 28th, 2022.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!