A curse plagues the realm of Azenor—during each new moon, magic flows from the nearby mountain and brings nightmares to life. Only magicians, who serve as territory wardens, stand between people and their worst dreams.
Clementine Madigan is ready to take over as the warden of her small town, but when two magicians challenge her, she is unwittingly drawn into a century-old conflict. She seeks revenge, but as she secretly gets closer to Phelan, one of the handsome young magicians, secrets begin to rise. Clementine must unite with her rival to fight the realm’s curse, which seems to be haunting her every turn.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Azenor is plagued by a curse. A curse that brings Nightmares to life on full moons that have to be defeated by magicians who ward the towns. Clem is more than ready to take over as warden as of her small town in the shadow of the mountains, she has spent her whole life training with her father and knows she is ready. But one full moon two new magicians show up and throw Clem’s plans into chaos. Now she seeks revenge on the people who took away her home, but her quest for vengeance draws her into a century old conflict, one where no one is quite what they seem, and monsters aren’t limited to dreams. Clem will have to put aside her plans and place her trust in the boy she deemed her enemy if she, and the people she loves, are to make it out alive.
Clem has possibly become one of my favourite characters after reading this. She is a girl on a mission, her one goal in life to take over the wardship of her town from her father once he retires, and all that is thrown to the wind when he is challenged and beaten by two new Magicians from the city. I completely understood and empathised with her need for revenge, after having her whole life taken away from her. Shes smart, empathetic and a bad ass when it comes to fighting the nightmares come to life, and I thoroughly enjoyed following her on her journey. As well as Clem we are introduced to a wide range of side characters, some which have a bigger impact on the story than others, but they’re all brilliantly brought to life and even the ones with less page time still make an impact on us as the reader.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a standalone that has satisfied me with both the strength of the characters as well as the magic system and world, but Dreams Lie Beneath did just that. Would I have liked this to be a series? Yes, but that’s only because I would have loved to spend more time with both the characters and in the world that Ross creates. I’ve never quite read a magic system like the one in this book, where, thanks to a centuries old curse, dreams come to life and magicians spend their time recording people’s nightmares so they know how to defeat them come the new moon when they appear as real life apparitions. Ross does a fantastic job of introducing and developing her magic system, while also managing to give us little ‘stories’ throughout which allow us as the reader to understand the lore of her world, why this curse exists and what it would take to defeat it.
As well as the obvious fantasy elements there’s a mystery that runs through this book, about why exactly the curse occurred, who was to blame, and how it could be defeated. I had a lot of fun throwing some wild guesses out there, some of which turned out to be right and others not, but Ross does a brilliant job of giving you just enough information to keep you guessing and intrigued as to where the story is going to go. Her descriptive writing was lush and lyrical in parts, but some of my favourite scenes where the ones where Clem and her fellow magicians were fighting the nightmares. They were epic, sometimes a little scary and thanks to the authors writing style played almost like a movie in my head which made for a seriously immersive reading experience.
Another book for fans of enemies to lovers romance, I cackled at some of the scenes with Clem and Phelan seeing her internal battle over wanting to defeat him and bring his family down, and wanting to protect him. He admits to her that he isn’t a good person, but his actions betray his words. I loved their interactions together, their banter as well as when they were looking out for each other and, although it was a little too sweet in parts for my dark and blackened heart, I really enjoyed how it didn’t detract from the story in any way, instead it became a natural addition.
Dreams Lie Beneath is perfect for fantasy fans who want all the world building, character growth and magic that you get with a series, but without the torturous wait in between books. Filled with brilliantly placed plot twists, enemies to lovers romance and a mystery that keeps you guessing until the last few chapters. I polished this book off in a day, unable and unwilling to put it down and you can bet I’m going to be checking out the authors other works.