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Search For The Shadow Key, 2nd in Wayne Thomas Batson‘s Dreamtreaders series, is a fast and thrilling ride through the two separate worlds of the Waking and the Dream. The hero of the story is Archer Keaton, a Dreamtreader, one who has been “called on [a] journey to fulfill the creeds and turn aside darkness so that mankind may have hope and truth”. He can spend up to 11 hours in the Dream where he has amazing abilities: to fly, conjure, cruise Intrusion waves on his Dream matter surfboard, and mend breaches in the Dream fabric. It is serious business, though. There are many dangers in the Dream, and too many breaches will cause a rift — the two worlds will begin to merge through the rift and chaos will reign. The main threat to the Dream fabric is Rigby, nephew of the former Lurker, who has learned to be a Lucid Walker and has created a money-making venture from allowing bored, wealthy people the opportunity to Lucid Walk. All the increased traffic in the Dream is making it next to impossible for Archer to mend all the breaches on his own. How can he stop Rigby, and how can he prevent what seems to be an inevitable rift?
This is an adventure story, first and foremost, but it is also wrought with classic symbolism of good vs evil, light vs darkness, temptation, good intentions, and redemption through faith. There are many interesting characters who will be familiar to readers of the first book in this trilogy, Dream Treaders — Dream by Day, Live by Night. There are nine laws the Dreamtreaders follow, the first of which is that they must have an anchor, and it must have personal meaning for them. Archer’s anchor is the wishing well in his backyard because it had been a special place for his mother who died of cancer 8 years earlier. His master is called Gabriel who is unable to interfere in the Dreamtreaders activities in either world; Archer is able to call on him for advice and strategy through the use of a ‘summoning feather’ tucked in the back of his Dreamtreader’s Creed. Master Gabriel is large and reassuring. It is part of his job to choose the Dreamtreaders — 3 from each generation. At Archer’s urging, the master has chosen two more Dreamtreaders to assist Archer — one from Australia, and the other, Archer’s 8-year-old sister Kaylie, a genius who quickly outstrips the others in her Dream world abilities. Archer’s friend Amy is a calming influence on his impulsivity, and has guessed some of what he does. In league with Rigby, is Kara, a former friend of Archer’s who is somewhat mesmerized by Rigby’s business acumen and the fun of lucid walking.
There are many fanciful figures in the Dream World, some of whom are allies (like Raz, the tiny squirrell-like, flying powerhouse capable of conjuring and protecting Archer as needed), and some of whom are extremely dangerous (like the howling hounds who can be called by the Lurker), and when some of them begin to cross from the Dream to the Waking World to take people Archer cares about, his job becomes even more scary and difficult. First, one of his teachers is taken by the Scath (dark, cold, wispy characters unleased by Rigby to do his evil will), then his brother buster has a nightmare which causes him to “surf” down the stairs and end up in hospital with a concussion. When his father is kidnapped, Archer, Buster and Kaylee end up staying at Amy’s house. The final straw is when Kaylie is prevented from returning to the Wake World by the Lurker, who is also trapped in Dream. Archer is torn between protecting everyone from the evil that is now crossing between worlds, and working to rescue Kaylie and their father. Can he make the difficult choices and not give in to temptation?
The Christian slant in this book is mostly symbolic, but the Keaton family does have a strong faith in a loving God,and the power of prayer, which they call on when times get tough. They encourage and love each other, and have a strong sense of duty. The Dreamtreaders are cautioned against reading the ‘Masters’ Bindings’ because the knowledge will be too much for them and turn them into monsters; rather like Adam and Eve in the garden. The evil merchant with the gleaming cheshire smile, Bezeal, always offers help but always exacts a price in return.
I liked the way the Dream is organized into 3 triangular areas, 1 for each of the Dreamtreaders, and the way the 9 laws are laid out at the beginning of the story. Readers are introduced to sections of the Dreamtreaders’ Creed periodically throughout the book — Conceptus 6 through 10 — so I’m assuming that the first 5 were included in the first volume of the series. The story never lets up; there is always suspense and danger (and, mostly, rescue) around the corner. If this were made into a movie, the special effects could be quite spectacular. I would suggest this book for grade 5 or 6 and up; even adults will enjoy this great romp through spectacular landscapes; or, should I say dreamscapes.
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