Reverie by Ryan La Sala is a very unusual book that is described as Inception meets The Magicians, but I don’t think that does it justice. That’s because Reverie is many things, but above all is highly imaginative, unapologetic in its queerness, magical and 100% original.
Reverie is a YA fantasy that I promise you, you will have no idea what you’ll be walking in to! And honestly, I think that’s best. It’s one of those stories that you’ll benefit the most from not knowing too much about before you go in to it. It’s best to let La Sala take you on the epic journey of Reverie.
One thing I will say once now and then return to, is that I felt like I had a good grip on the novel, yet at the same time got completely lost along the way…which I guess is what reveries themselves feel like, but I’ll go into that in more depth later. But for now let me talk plot and characters.
So Reverie revolves around our MC Kane Montgomery, an out gay high schooler who wakes up half in a river next to a barn on fire, with a flaming car crashed into it. He also realises he has long-term amnesia too. So here’s where we get a little Inception-y – he’s not really sure what’s going on in his life (kinda like us as new readers!) as his life feels vaguely familiar to him, but not really. But he quickly realises something’s up because there’s suspicious police and shadows that don’t behave like they should. As well as other things – like realising he has superpowers.
Kane discovers a few people he can harbour trust in and they work to put all the pieces back together. I don’t wanna give much more away than that.
What I will say though, is that the characters are incredible. Especially the side characters. Bravo Ryan La Sala, that is how you write fully-fleshed side characters! I appreciate the I-don’t-take-any-shit attitude from Adeline. And can we just mention Poesy?! A drag queen sorceress of dubious evil intentions?! The times when she was on the page were my favourite! What a hell of a way to twist the ‘evil queen’ trope!
But unfortunately I have a few things I didn’t like from the characters – and they both have to do with Kane. The first is that he wasn’t that likable at times. He made some dumbass decisions and it just made me mad.
The second is…controversial. But it’s my opinion and you are of course entitled to disagree with it just as much as I am to have it but I felt like the gay-ness of Kane overtook him.
Let me state this clearly before I continue: I am 100% here for representation, equality and diversity. 100%. And I am part of the LGBT community myself. But I feel like Kane was gay above all other things. He was smart – but gay, he was brave – but gay, he was on a journey to figure shit out – but he was gay. Do you catch my drift? It’s like his sexual preference overshadowed every part of his personality. And I’m not here for that, because there’s more to Kane (and every single person, real or fictional) than a single identity label. And it kinda bummed me out. I LOVE seeing representation in all forms in books – we do need more of it – but I think it was too much in this book to the point of near-aggression and it was off-putting. I just wanted to enjoy the character for ALL of who he was.
But that’s a personal preference.
Ok – let’s move on to the world building! After all, it’s kinda the backbone of any fantasy story! La Sala managed to pull off creating several different fantasy worlds (the reveries) in one larger fictional universe, and it was pretty incredible at times. There are illusions, fights, memory visits, family, friendship, love, the lot – all entangled in a fantasy web. It’s a highly creative and ambitious premise that is pulled off with astonishing talent for the most part.
But the thing is a concept on this grand of a scale needs flawless execution in order to keep believability and immersion. Unfortunately I felt that slip a couple of times. I feel like there weren’t’ any established ‘rules’ to ground the fantasy a bit. For example, I still have no idea what the boundaries of the reveries are, or how they really…work. And when an explanation was attempted it was very info-dumpy from a character monologue.
A lot of details that should have been the bedrock of the fantasy world were unanswered or ignored and it was a bit…flat. I think Reverie tried to do just a bit too much and spread itself a little too thin when it comes to the fantasy world.
One positive though – a huge positive – La Sala’s writing is beautiful. The visuals were intense and fully realised, so it made up for the lack of world building at times. It actually bordered on distracting at times it was that vivid! I also found the dialogue to be cheesy (in a good way) at times and believable for the most part. The writing was emotional where it needed to be, and compelling throughout, and very funny at times!
I’ve read a lot of books (haven’t we all), and I was worried that Reverie would bleed into other books I’ve read and maybe not be too original because of it’s likening to Inception. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Reverie is an incredibly original story with a triumphant flair of camp and one hell of an imagination behind it! You won’t have read anything like it!
And also, let’s give some time for appreciating that cover – the dust jacket of which is pearlescent!
Overall, an incredible fantasy foray but it drops itself a bit on the world building and focus retention at times. A solid 3.75/5 stars! I’m looking forward to more from Ryan La Sala.
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