Fifteen-year-old Laura and her cousin Rose inhabit a world very much like our own – they have Jesus, The Mill on the Floss, demotic Greek, hockey. They also have the Gospel of St Lazarus, and the Place: a pocket of land, a fold in the universe, unmeasurable and inaccessible to all but the very few and most elite – the Dreamhunters. The Place is a world where dreams are marked at map locations; Dreamhunters cross the border at one of two points, sleep in a specific grid reference, catch the dream that has its existence there, and take it back to share with a paying audience. For this is 1906 and, in this world, dreams are what cinema became in ours – more, because each dreamer experiences the dream as their own. There are dreams of healing, dreams of adventure, dreams of peace, dreams of romance – Rose's mother, Grace, specialises in these – and, although Laura is initially unaware of this, there are nightmares, too, and Laura's father, Tziga Hame, the Dreamhunter who first stumbled (literally) upon the Place some twenty years before, has his own dark trade in these. When he vanishes, he leaves Laura this legacy, along with a duty to repair the damage he's done. He also leaves her a strange companion to help her with this burden.
We end on a shocking climax; this is part one of a two-part story, continued in The Dream Quake, which I am impatiently waiting for the postman to bring me any … day … now.
Dense, complex, and beautiful: I don't have the words to do justice to this story. I only wish I did.
It isn't just the storyline that sets The Rainbow Opera apart: there's something unique and distinctive about its voice that I can't define. The only thing I can think of is that the author's from New Zealand and that perhaps her background and experience colour the narrative in a way that's slightly alien to my understanding.
This is one of the best and most original fantasies, YA or other, that I've read in years. In a world where the mundane, the badly written and the run-of-the-mill dominate the bestsellers charts, how is it possible that I only stumbled upon this wonderful book by accident?
Read it. Please. And then come and talk to me about it.