Wednesday, September 19, 2012

{Review} The Dream Stealer by Gregory Maguire

The Dream Stealer by Gregory Maguire
Published by Clarion books, 1983
Hardcover, 144 pages
ISBN 0618181881
Genres: children's fiction, fairy tales, folk tales, fantasy, YA 

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Once every generation or so, a great wolf called the Blood Prince, who not only devours bodies but also steals souls, stalks the northern forests of Russia. Rumor has it that he has set his sights on the forgettable little village of Miersk. The wolf’s evil runs so deep that past survivors refuse to believe in him, and so it is up to the newest generation, two children named Pasha and Lisette, to save the village. But how can a young boy and girl stop such a beast? This mesmerizing tale draws on Russian folk stories about Vasilissa the Beautiful, Baba Yaga, and the Firebird and is filled with quirky details and memorable characters that could spring only from the imagination of Gregory Maguire.

My review: This book was a pleasant surprise. Narrated in the style of a fairy tale with charming characters, bewitched creatures, and magic galore, it makes one feel like a six year old again, expecting Baba Yaga to pop out of the bushes or a house to sprout legs at any moment. While there are many humorous and fun passages, the story is also sobering as the reader is reminded that it is based on Russian fairy tales, and there is never enough to eat, not enough work, and no opportunities for betterment. This tale is as much about being grateful for the things you already have as it is about bravery, love and steadfastness.

The characters are surprisingly well developed with personal histories and unique problems. Pasha and Lisette, who are best friends, feel the worry emanating from the adults that the Blood Prince will come and eat every inhabitant of the village Miersk, and so they set out to find the frightening and powerful witch, Baba Yaga. An unlikely and tenuous relationship develops between witch and village and they formulate a plan to find and vanquish the vicious wolf. The characters evolve throughout the story, learning patience, self-sacrifice, and how to express the love one feels along the way.

This is not a long book nor is it difficult to read, though it is thoughtful and, I think, one of Gregory Maguire's better narratives. I would recommend The Dream Stealer to anyone who has ever had a passion for traditional fairy tales or folktales or enjoys magic and wishes to mix their reading list up a bit.
Mary Beth

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