by Skyler White
From a Victorian Ireland of magic, poetry and rebellion, Ida Jameson, an amateur occultist, reaches out for power, but captures Laura Armstrong, a modern-day graphic artist instead. Now, for the man or demon she loves, each woman must span a bridge through Hell and across history . . . or destroy it.
“Every passionate man is linked with another age, historical or imaginary, where alone he finds images that rouse his energy.” W. B. Yeats
Anchored in fact on both sides of history, Laura and Ida, modern rationalist and fin de siècle occultist, are linked from the moment Ida channels Laura into the body of celebrated beauty and Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne. When Laura falls—from an ocean and a hundred years away—passionately, Victorianly in love with the young poet W. B. Yeats, their love affair entwines with Irish history and weaves through Yeats’s poetry until Ida discovers something she wants more than magic in the subterranean spaces in between.
With her Irish past threatening her orderly present and the man she loves in it, Laura and Yeats—the practical materialist and the poet magus—must find a way to make love last over time, in changing bodies, through modern damnation, and into the mythic past to link their pilgrim souls . . . or lose them forever.
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In Dreams Begin is such interesting for me, in concept and execution. Though I think there are a lot of people out there that are like "W B who?" and who would hate a storyline that bounces back and forth between past and present (and between different characters bodies), these things really attracted me to it. I'm not going to lie, I like me some poetry, Yeats included. And I also am a fan of stories that strive to recreate or even rewrite the life of a real person, not in a biographical way, but as a work of fictitious art. It fascinates me. I also like stories that shift back and forth, so long as I don't feel like it's a cheap device used to build suspense and keep me on edge in an otherwise laaame story (I'm talking to you, Dan Brown). Skyler White does it well. When the story shifts -- even frustratingly in the middle of something -- it feels natural and real, not gimmicky. I liked both worlds that were created, and I like who Laura is in both.
The romance, too, worked for me. Things come quick, and you know I'm normally not a fan of that, but in this, again, it felt right. It worked for the story and the fantastical aspects of it. All of this -- the time-shifting, the body-switching, the revolutionary ideals, all of it work together in this grand way to create a sense of destiny, in which case the romance between Laura and Yeats doesn't seem at all far-fetched: it seems fated. I feel a little differently about Ida, the little nutjob, and her 'romance' but the fact is, I liked her, too, and it worked on its own level. And there was sexytime. Boy, was there sexytime. Occasionally in crypts, but who's counting?
I talked a bit in my review for White's debut and Falling, Fly about her poetic style. There, it didn't always do the story justice, but here it almost always works very nicely. There are times when it's a little overwrought or confusing, but for the most part, White has a knack for phrasing something just so. Things will be going along as normal and then she'll describe something in a certain way, or say such and such of the characters, and it just kind of stops you in your tracks. You can see it. As strange a turn of phrase as it may be, you absolutely know what she means, and your understanding of the situation is expanded. The woman can write a metaphor.
I do have similar warnings as I did in and Falling, Fly, though. This book is not for everybody. Because of the time- and body-switching, it probably could get very confusing for some people, and it definitely takes it out of the 'light read' category; you do have to pay attention. Also, the poetic prose will turn some off and confuse others, without a doubt. And of course, there is AFF's steamy test*. But all in all, I think In Dreams Begin is an improvement over AFF. White has found her niche and created something pretty compelling here. And she made me want to read about the real lives of Maud and Yeats. And that's saying something.
This is Maud Gonne --->
<--- And this is W.B. Yeats. Sexy bastard.
*Quick 'steamy' test: how do you feel about the word 'cock'? If you just cringed, skip this. If you sat up straighter and said 'where?' go out and grab a copy.