Apr 14, 2015

[Books] Dream Stalkers

So I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Night Terrors when it first came up in my NetGally review queue. The cover had a clown of all things and that's not something you eagerly look for. And that was probably the appropriate reaction since the cover is meant to depict a nightmare clown. And his name is Jinx.

Admittedly what had prompted me to get through Night Terrors sooner rather than later was the fact that Dream Stalkers, the follow-up novel in the Shadow Watch series was already in my review queue. And hey, a book franchise that is already able to build up into a full series feels like something that deserves more of chance than the average one-shot.

And while Night Terrors wasn't quite a home run, I was still pretty fascinating by the setting as a whole. Waggoner seems to have a good thing going here, for as long as he can provide good adventures for our pair of Shadow Watch officers to get into. And that's what this second book really represents - a test of how well these characters can continue to fare in new adventures.

Synopsis: Dream Stalkers is the second novel in the Shadow Watch series of novels by Tim Waggoner. I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the work.

After the events of Night Terrors, the Shadow Watch is on a massive recruitment drive with all agents actively mentoring new recruits. And our heroes Audra and her Incubus Jinx are currently trying to disassemble the drug ring behind Shut-eye, a dangerous drug meant to help Ideators simulate sleep with typically horrible side-effects. And given how Ideators like Audra don't sleep at all as part of their "gift", it's easy to understand why people give into the drug. Despite their best efforts, they've been unable to find any information about who is manufacturing the drug and thus they've decided to use the rookies Melody and Trauma Doll to try and lure the dealers to make an appearance.

But there are other events afoot in Nod as if the recent events with the Lords of Misrule hadn't been enough. Things seem to be changing bit by bit in rather subtle ways and only a few individuals like Audra are starting to notice it. And their investigation into the Shut-eye drug ring leads them on a path of personal significance as it involves reaching out to her former mentor's Ideator before he succumbed to the maddening effects of Shut-eye. To top it all off, religious factions in Nod seem to be particularly active for some reason as they preach their opposing views of their other-worldly existence.

Now it's nice to see Audra and Jinx working a lot better this time around. Yes, getting past their emotional issues was sort of a key moment in the first book and now we have them being a lot more effective as a team. Sure, their first case is a bit of a doozy and anyone would have a hard time with the forces they're facing, but they do their best. The whole Blending angle with the two of them potentially being too close to one another was an interesting addition to the mythos of the series and it did make for some interesting scenes for the pair.

The whole investigation started out well enough with our heroes going through a pretty methodical investigation that involves what you can only call good police work or something along those lines. And I was pretty engaged with things up until the whole prison scene. But from that point things seemed to ramp up in an awkward way, like when a movie director realizes he's invested too much time in the build-up and now needs to speed through the rest of the story somehow. In many places it felt messy and not quite as logical, as far as the angle of the mystery in this story is concerned.

And the ending was sort of big and flashy and yet didn't feel like it paid off well. The big bad villain was again someone who was presented as a random NPC early on and there were little to no clues that could lead the reader to believe this person should be a suspect. And while this isn't absolutely required, I admit I'm the sort of guy that appreciates good foreshadowing and for both Shadow Watch novels we haven't quite seen that from Waggoner.

At least the action was a lot better this time around and he's really developing a flair for describing the unique abilities of the various Incubi when in their Night Aspects. Those moments were rather well done this time around and I appreciated the work.

So on the whole Dream Stalkers is a book with a lot of great moments and good character segments but the overall plot and the central mystery fell a little short. But this may not be much of a problem given enough time as Waggoner gets to flesh out this world more and really think about what he wants to do with his characters long-term. Thus the book gets 4 strange moments of Blending out of a possible 5.

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