Thank you so much to the publisher via Bookish First for my finished copy of The Lost Dreamer by Lizz Huerta!
I’ve never read anything based off of MesoAmerican type culture so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. The story idea is a good one, and I enjoyed the read, but I think the overall execution hurt the end result. Let’s take a look at this newly released YA fantasy!
Lets talk about execution first: A TON of names, places, abilities and different magics were thrown out at first with no background given, creating a lot of initial confusion. I see a lot of people agreeing that they started out without knowing what was happening or being able to keep track of characters, which can sour a book. It definitely did for me until I got about 100 pages in and became more interested.
Many things are explained at some point but especially at the end I could just not keep track of so many minor characters. Most big world building things were at least touched on at some point but per a typical YA, Huerta focused more on the characters than explaining the world
I also wasn’t sure about describing everyone by their structure, hips, and build, but I read that as a nod to the Mesoamerican culture. What she did describe very well was the natural world: flowers, animals, hidden temples, smells, and some of the ceremonies and rituals.
The characters were decent. I loved Saya’s story. She deals with escaping abuse and finding family, discovering herself and her abilities, and watching her find joy in the world was awesome. I loved her Singing abilities too and how it connected her with natural spirits. In general, I think the different innate magical abilities of the clans were the best part of the book.
Indir, the first main character, felt like cardboard to me. She clearly has some kind of social anxiety and never liked to leave the Temple. She was a powerful Dreamer but seemed essentially worthless when it came to travelling or really doing anything
That said, and needless to say I was SHOCKED when she randomly and very quickly became attached to a male warrior, and hooked up without much hesitation. It was a means to the end for the story but that “romance” storyline became a WTAF thing real quick in a book that I would otherwise hand to a 12 year old
Thankfully – it was vague and more or less had to be inferred but still – I didn’t see it as consistent with Indir’s character at all.
There is a big “twist” towards the end that – again – it was a good idea but I had to backtrack and consider the book from a new angle. I think when readers will appreciate the big reveal more than adults. For me, the timelines should have been given along with the points of view and let people reason the twist out on our own if they hadn’t figured it out already
The end result was a starting point going forward for the next book with a LOT of background missing. I have so many questions about the meantime, like the book was getting too long and Huerta just found a way to wrap it up!
Even with the issues, I thought there were many good themes like dealing with the death of a relative for the first time, sisterhood, girl power, different beauty standards, choosing your family, being curious about the natural world – and many more.
Overall – I think this is a good series for teens. Other than a 15 (I think) year old shy character having a sexual partner, there was absolutely no language and a bit of blood and violence but nothing explicit at all. I would be ok with my (nonexistent) teens reading this one