Vivian Maylor can’t sleep. Maybe it’s because she just broke up with her boyfriend and moved to a new town, or it could be the stress of her new job at the hospital. But perhaps it’s because her dreams have started to bleed through into her waking hours.
All of her life Vivian has rejected her mother’s insane ramblings about Dreamworlds for concrete science and fact, until an emergency room patient ranting about dragons spontaneously combusts before her eyes—forcing Viv to consider the idea that her visions of mythical beasts might be real.
And when a chance encounter leads her to a man she knows only from her dreams, Vivian finds herself falling into a world that seems strange and familiar all at once—a world where the line between dream and reality is hard to determine, and hard to control…
Dreams can be a tricky sort of magic. So much of their power is comes from the disorientation and internal logic of the dreamer, reading any sort of narrative built on top of that fluid and arbitrary base can be alienating. Kerry Schafer, however, takes the best of the mystery and humor of a dream-state to enrich the mechanics of magic in her world. I laughed, my heart raced, and I finished BETWEEN more than a little bit in love with Schafer, Vivian, and a penguin named Poe.
I spent awhile looking for Schafer’s other pen names or prior books, because it’s hard to believe BETWEEN is a debut effort. This story is rock solid. Action flows beautifully, characters are introduced and grow in believable ways. Vivian and Zee are wonderfully believable as they try to reconcile their “real life” with the influences that seep in from their dreams. There were several surprises for me as the story progressed, as hints of past events and dreams were matched with present day characters, and all of these revelations felt well structured and natural. Vivian’s ex-boyfriend, Jared, is the violent bogey man that haunts her dreamscape, and my only caution would be to readers who are sensitive to sexual violence. I didn’t like Jared. I looked forward to his defeat or comeuppance or demise, but my dislike for him didn’t dominate the narrative or overwhelm my affection for other parts of the story.
Urban Fantasy fans will be able to pick out several familiar plot points in BETWEEN. The main character discovers a hidden heritage, there’s a beautiful man who has loved her long before they met, she has a preternaturally smart pet, a crazy mother and mysterious grandfather. None of these elements on their own are entirely new, but the elegance and magic with which Schafer writes them is a welcome surprise. And nothing in this story is included “just because”, each piece is tied together mindfully and specifically. Take Poe, Vivian’s penguin side-kick. While he certainly brought most of the comic relief, he was also integral to bringing those splashes of dreaming disorientation to a fantasy plot. Schafer is a comedic genius to realize that nothing says “This is a weird dream,” like having a silent, deadpan penguin standing in the corner.
I never expect a series to sweep me off my feet in the first book, which makes it all the sweeter when it happens. BETWEEN is the best of what Urban Fantasy can offer, rife with adventure, danger, and our familiar world threaded with dreams. For the magic and romance (and unlikely penguins), BETWEEN has already found it’s way to my favorites shelf. I can’t wait to read what Schafer comes up with next.
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