Dreamers

by Donna Glee Williams

Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes


Dreamers is a thoughtful tale in the tradition of the finest of Ray Bradbury, bringing to mind “The April Witch” and Dandelion Wine. Essentially a love story between two people trapped between desire and duty, anyone who has relinquished freedom for responsibility will feel a deep affinity for the protagonists. 

The Dreamer is a sixteen-year-old village girl whose dreams are interpreted for the well-being of the town. Every morning the Scribe meticulously transcribes her dreams for interpretation. The Dreamer’s duty forces upon her monotony and solitude, a life shepherded by the Scribe, the Chief Interpreter, and the village Council. Love, or at least relationships, are forbidden. She has given up her own life:  she belongs to the town now. But even though her needs are provided for, she longs to be free, to live a normal life. The cost of being a Dreamer is not just freedom—Dreamers burn out after only a few short years. Little by little they stop being able to sleep and to dream. Once harvested, empty, they are killed and replaced. 

The Water-Bearer Orik is a nobleman who flees to the Dreamer’s small town to escape both responsibility and court intrigue. He is content to earn meager wages carrying water for the village folk, but the Dreamer catches his eye, and he begins a subtle courtship. Meanwhile, Orik’s brother’s men catch up with him, putting the Water-Bearer, and potentially the village, in danger.

The Scribe also sacrifices much of his life for the good of the town, and he grows fond of the Dreamer. Overly fond, in the eyes of the Chief Interpreter, given the girl’s life-expectancy.

Dreamers is part romance and part fantasy. It has many kind and sympathetic characters such as we meet in our own lives. These characters have their own needs, desires and flaws, and each helps the Dreamer grow in a unique way. However, not all of the characters here are benevolent. Unlike Williams’ The Braided Path, Dreamers does have villains. The Chief Interpreter interprets the dreams the way he sees fit and profits accordingly. If anything threatens his enterprise, including dreams he can’t twist to his own profit, he takes action. The Water-Bearer’s brother is evil, or at least surrounded by unscrupulous advisers, and believes beyond reason that the Water-Bearer has aims on the throne. 

We get a glimpse at the all-important dreams, of course, and they are interestingly conceived and executed. I quite enjoyed these trips of the imagination. Perhaps ‘marveled’ isn’t too strong a word, since I have tried writing dream sequences a time or two, and it’s not an easy thing. But Williams makes the dreams both believable and meaningful.

Donna Glee Williams is making a name for herself with quiet, meaningful fantasy without the hacking swords and drooling monsters we’ve become accustomed to. If I can take issue with anything I would say that at times the symbolism is too obvious when subtlety would have worked better. Dreamers also builds more slowly than some readers will have patience for. It is a book to enjoy luxuriating in a hot tub with a fine glass of wine perched on the edge. But beware, you may become so entranced you forget the wine.

Visit Donna Glee Williams here.