Feast: Harvest of Dreams
by Merrie Destefano
Reviewed by Nu Yang
It's no surprise that Neil Gaiman is an influence to Destefano's writer protagonist Madeline MacFaddin. In Feast: Harvest of Dreams, the reader is introduced to a world of magic, Darklings, and dream harvesting. From the forest setting to the magical creatures, it's clearly something every Gaiman fan may enjoy.
Madeline returns to Ticonderoga Falls in southern California with her nine-year-old son to escape the city, the news of her ex remarrying, and to concentrate on her writing. As a young girl, Madeline used to visit the small village, and one summer, she was saved from a sinister forest creature by Ash--a Darkling--but she has no recollection of it. Along the way, the reader meets more Darklings--some of them aren't as friendly as Ash--as they gather in town for the annual Feast--yup, you guessed it--to eat the dreams of humans. It's an interesting premise because every human dreams. We also meet some of the village folks who are in tune with the magic taking place in their woods. The entire story has a spooky vibe, kind of like a morning fog rolling in on a misty day. It also helped that the climax of the story took place on Halloween.
The book was a fast-read for me. I enjoyed that the female protagonist wasn't your typical urban fantasy lead. She seemed older (although the cover model doesn't appear so) and had a child. I also liked Ash's story with his half-human, half-Darkling daughter, Elspeth. Even though the story was built up to have Madeline and Ash as the main romantic couple, I found myself more interested in Elspeth's relationship with Jake, a human boy. It might also be the fact that I wasn't a fan of Ash's angsty past or his tormented hero act. He loved reminding the reader that he was a “monster.”
One thing I had to get used to was Destefano's decision to write in first-person from each point-of-view character in his/her own chapter. It felt like head-hopping. Most of the chapters were only a few pages long, some only one page, so I never felt really connected to the characters. This resulted in 95 chapters with an epilogue. As a reader, I only stayed with each person for that short amount of time; it almost felt like I was flipping through with a remote. There were seven point-of-view characters in total. Destefano could have benefited from cutting out a few of them, such as the sheriff, who didn't even appear as a POV character until the middle of the story. I believe if Destefano wanted to stick with first-person, she should have written the entire book from Madeline's POV. To include so many POV characters, she should have written the book in third-person and spent more time on each chapter to flesh out each character.
Overall, it was a fun read. I enjoyed the world-building and it was refreshing to see a female protagonist in this genre who was a mother--and not some sexy demon/vampire/werewolf. Gaiman would have been proud.
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