Unlike most 17-year-olds, Joshlyn Weaver has a sacred duty. She's the celebrated daughter of the dream walkers, a secret society whose members enter the Dream universe we all share and battle nightmares. If they fail, the emotional turmoil in the Dream could boil over and release nightmares into the World.
Despite Josh's reputation as a dream walking prodigy, she's haunted by her mistakes. A lapse in judgment and the death of someone she loved have shaken her confidence. Now she's been assigned an apprentice, a boy whose steady gaze sees right through her, and she's almost as afraid of getting close to him as she is of getting him killed.
But when strangers with impossible powers begin appearing in the Dream, it isn't just Will that Josh has to protectit's the whole World.
Experience the dangers of the dream world in Dreamfire, a riveting, young adult debut novel by Kit Alloway.
About the Author
KIT ALLOWAY is an avid quilter who lives in Louisville, KY with her family and four very small dogs. Dreamfire is her debut novel.
Read an Excerpt
By Kit Alloway
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Kit Alloway
All rights reserved.
The sewer wasn't the worst place for a nightmare, Josh Weaver admitted to herself as she fumbled with the boxy, rose-gold lighter in her hand. But it was hardly a warm afternoon in the park, either.
She stood knee-deep in very cold water that smelled of rotting fast food and gave off fumes like fresh asphalt. Her jeans were soaked—she'd slipped and fallen twice—and her black shirt was too thin to keep her warm. Around her legs, oily patterns floated on the surface of stagnant, brackish water as it flowed down the cramped concrete sewer tunnel and into the darkness.
Josh moved her lighter in a wide arc, which brought back the sharp pain in her right elbow where she'd slammed it against a ladder climbing down here. The ladder had been behind her a moment before; now it was gone. Like so many things in the Dream, it had vanished without reason.
When the lighter grew hot in her hand, she let the cap close with a click. The darkness was absolute—No cheating, it seemed to say—and while Josh had been in dark places lots of times, there was a bad vibe down here; it drove the adrenaline that made her hands want to grab a weapon and her legs ache to run. The feeling might just have been instinct, but Josh knew better than to ignore it. Instinct had saved her life too many times.
For a moment she hesitated, rubbing her numb fingertips against the warm metal lighter. Then she closed her eyes against the dark and broke Stellanor's First Rule of dream walking: Never let the dreamer's fear become your own.
Usually when Josh was inside the Dream universe, she kept the image of stone walls in the back of her mind. The walls—thick and high and impenetrable—protected her from the dreamers' emotions and made it possible for her to focus and not become paralyzed by terror or anxiety. But now Josh imagined a tiny hole in one wall, a well-worn hole the size of her pinky finger where a cork usually fit, and when she pulled the cork out, a slither of blue smoke came through.
A man in an old-fashioned coat. A gas can. A mask. A little boy wearing the gas mask, his face turning white, then blue, the mask pulling at his skin, sucking, sucking ...
And something else, a hint of primal fear, like a match held to the woman's anxiety and ready to set it alight: dreamfire.
Josh jammed the cork back in the wall before the dreamfire could overwhelm her. She opened her eyes and flicked the lighter again.
So there's a bad guy down here somewhere, she thought. Skippy.
A sloshing noise came from one end of the tunnel, and Josh saw the dreamer come running—a woman in her early forties, nice-looking in a middle-class, soccer-mom kind of way.
"They're coming!" the woman warned Josh, stopping a few feet away. "I got them away from the children, but they're coming."
"Who's coming?" Josh asked.
"The men, with the gas masks. They put a mask on Paul and he turned all blue."
"You're dreaming," Josh calmly told the soccer mom. "You need to wake up."
Sometimes the best way to deal with dreamers was to point out that they were dreaming. Some would realize the truth of the statement and wake up, while an interesting few would gain conscious control over their own nightmare.
Soccer mom did neither.
"Blue," the woman repeated, her eyes staring into the darkness. Josh felt the dreamfire flickering against the walls in her mind, like flames burning just outside her field of vision.
All right, she thought, this lady is not hearing me. We need an out.
Unfortunately, there was no immediately apparent way to escape the dream. Josh needed a doorway, a manhole, an iron gate. Any kind of porthole, anything that would move them both to a different place.
"Don't worry about Paul—" she started to say, and the woman let out an operatic scream that echoed up and down the sewer tunnel in a wicked one-woman chorus.
Josh grimaced as the dreamer took off running, splashing through the water like a duck taking flight.
Before Josh could go after her, a gust of freezing air swept the back of her neck. She spun so fast her feet lost purchase on the greasy tunnel floor and she fell on her butt—again. The hand holding the Zippo slipped underwater.
But before the light went out, she caught a glimpse of the man who had been standing not five feet behind her.
Now she understood why the woman was so upset.
The man stood tall and wide enough to fill the tunnel. He wore a green-black leather trench coat that glistened like the shell of a beetle. Big green buttons ran down the front and a wide belt cinched the waist. On his head sat a matching felt fedora with a black band.
A gas mask covered his face, and two rubber tubes connected it to a huge canister that he wore on his back. The canister was so large that Josh could see it over his shoulder. It was made of something white and slick, like bone. The gas mask hid his face, but the two hands sticking out of the overlong sleeves were massive, and the fingers, thick as quarter rolls, were spread wide apart. Even in the meager half-second glimpse she got of him, Josh saw the muscles in the backs of his hands straining against the flesh as he forced his fingers farther away from each other. His hands must have hurt, spread so wide.
Josh sat in the water, in the dark, and listened to the gritty sound of the lighter flicking futilely. The man in the trench coat didn't make a sound, but she felt his presence somewhere nearby, like air pressure against her skin. He was close—how close? Which side? She hated not knowing where he was, because she was going to have to make a run for it and she needed to know which direction to run.
Some nightmares could be dealt with, resolved, like the one the week before when a man dreamt that he had started a grease fire in the kitchen while frying a couple of breaded tennis shoes. Josh had just walked in, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and put the fire out. Man relieved, nightmare over.
But this dream was too minimalist to work with; there were no possibilities for improvisation in the tunnel. The source of danger was obvious, but the means of defense were a mystery. What could she use against this canister-carrying menace?
Possibly nothing. Not all nightmares could be resolved, and if that was the case in this nightmare, Josh had only one option left.
According to what was formally known as Tao Sing's Dictum: If you can't face a nightmare, run from it as fast as you possibly can.
The man in the trench coat still didn't make a sound. Finally, the lighter's wick dried enough that the little flame burst into action, and Josh's throat shut as if a string had been yanked tight around it.
The face of the man in the trench coat was less than a foot from her own.
All she saw during that glance were his eyes, bulging from above the rubber rim of his gas mask. They were black. The man carrying the canister had black eyes, deep and yet shiny. They had no whites. They had no irises. They had no pupils. It was as if his eyelids opened onto deep space.
He peered at her. A feeling emanated from this man—no, this creature—that made it hard for Josh to focus. Part of the feeling was intense desire, not for her but for violence, and part of it was indifference. The thing living in the trench coat wanted to kill, but it didn't care what, and this deep, unconscious need to end life was the source of the woman's dreamfire.
Only the deepest fears could awaken dreamfire, and only the strongest mental walls could stand against it. One moment of weakness would be enough to ignite a hysteria that would render Josh as powerless as the dreamer.
Josh began wondering if she'd have to kill the man.
This would hardly be her first time. But her father had once told her that even when he was in Vietnam, the killing hadn't seemed as real as Dream death did. Every sense was exaggerated—the sound of ribs cracking exploded in his ears, the blood was as thick as frosting, and it dried bright crimson, when it did finally dry.
And Dream death didn't always work. Once, Josh had blown a zombie's head off with a shotgun, watched it roll down a staircase, and felt his hands continue ripping her hair out. She'd had to break his body open like a lobster before he finally stopped coming at her.
The man in the trench coat struck her as the kind of guy who wasn't going to go down easily.
Then he spoke, the words muffled by the mask. No accent. No cadence. No real interest.
"You're Jona's daughter."
Josh was so startled she forgot to kick him. He knew her mother? Her mother had been dead for five years; Josh didn't bump into a lot of random people who had known her. And besides that, he was a nightmare, not a person—he shouldn't have been able to recognize Josh.
But while Josh stared at him with a tilted head, the man in the trench coat reached for a second gas mask dangling from his canister, and she remembered what the soccer mom had said.
They put a mask on Paul and he turned all blue.
That was when Josh remembered to kick him, leaning back on the hand that wasn't holding her lighter and using the leverage to get her right cross-trainer in under his chin.
His head snapped back. The felt hat flipped off his skull, revealing strands of gray-black hair twisted around a palm-sized bald spot.
Josh lashed out again. This time her heel caught him square in the breastbone and sent him flying into the side of the tunnel. His canister clanged against the wall.
She didn't waste any time. Before he could so much as finish sliding into the water, she was on her feet and running full-out through the tunnel. The water felt thick; it clung to her jeans as if trying to hold her back.
Move, move, move, she told herself.
The dreamer appeared around a bend in the tunnel, and Josh stumbled to a stop beside her. "I can't get this door open!" the woman screamed, knocking her fashion-ring-laden hand against a steel access door in the wall.
Finally, Josh thought at the sight of the door.
She listened for a moment, but between her own breath and soccer mom's gasps and sobs, she couldn't hear anything. Either the man in the trench coat wasn't following, or else he could move silently. She thought she could guess which.
Cold air gusted from the direction she had run.
"Don't panic," she told the woman, and braced her shoulder against the door. In the real world, she could never have knocked down a steel door, but this was the woman's dream, and it would respond to the woman's perceptions. If she thought Josh capable, the Dream would conform.
Josh launched herself at the door. Pain shot through her shoulder, but the hinges creaked.
"Harder," the woman urged.
Josh managed not to glare at her. She threw herself against the door again, so hard her arm moved in her shoulder socket. This time the door fell outward.
And kept falling. On the other side of the doorway stretched black emptiness. Josh grabbed the tunnel wall with her free hand to keep from tumbling into the void.
"I'm gonna die," the dreamer whispered.
If she hadn't felt sorry for the woman, Josh would have been annoyed. Why were people always so quick to assume that they were going to die? Josh had been in much worse situations than this one and made it out unharmed.
She relit her lighter with one hand while she pulled a makeup compact from her back pocket with the other. All of the facial powder had long ago fallen out of the hunter-green case. When she revved up the Zippo and reflected the light off the mirror and into the doorway, a shimmering surface appeared where the empty doorway had been a moment before. This filmy glaze, which dream walkers called the Veil, stretched across the doorframe like a huge soap bubble sparkling in the firelight.
"Through," Josh said.
"I'm gonna die."
The air that rushed over Josh's hair lifted it off her ears and slid icy fingers across her scalp. She turned without thinking.
The man in the green-black trench coat stood an arm's length away.
Josh raised her right foot, set it against the dreamer's waist, and kicked her through the doorway. Then she jumped after her.CHAPTER 2
Josh stumbled on her way out of the Dream and ended up on her knees on the archroom's tile floor. At the same time, somewhere else in the world, the dreamer was probably bolting upright in bed.
Josh's younger sister, Deloise, rose from a chair that sat near the stone archway through which Josh had fallen. But instead of helping her up, Deloise put her manicured hands on her hips and said, "I've been looking everywhere for you! Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"Um ..." Josh shook her head, trying to reorient herself. "Around six thirty?"
"Try eight twenty. You're going to be late to—oh, drat, Josh, you're wet. And you smell like you've been swimming in a septic tank."
Despite her attempt to appear disapproving, Deloise was smiling. She usually was. When Josh held out her hands, Deloise took them and tugged her sister up.
Deloise was—to her infinite pleasure—a full four inches taller than Josh, and at least four times as pretty. When people said her blond hair had good body, they were talking about the Venus de Milo's body, and when they said her brown eyes resembled a doe's, they were talking about Bambi's mom. And people were always talking, because not only was Deloise beautiful, she was wonderful. She preferred young children's nightmares, where she could soothe, reassure, and comfort, and she was well suited to the task. In the World, kids were unnaturally drawn to her, as if they knew subconsciously that she fought for them. And she was social, and funny, and enthusiastic, and sensitive, and ... a hundred other things Josh was not.
Josh groaned as she got to her feet. A puddle was forming on the clean, white tile and her hand was red from where she had let the Zippo burn too long. Her entire body shimmered with the aftermath of passing through the Veil, scientifically called Veil dust but more commonly known as fairy dust.
Josh wiped her face of fairy dust with a white hand towel. "How late am I going to be, you think?" she asked. Her seventeenth birthday party was set to start at nine.
"You'll make it if you hurry. I ironed your outfit."
Deloise was already dressed in a dark blue dress with palm-sized white flowers printed on it. A white shrug covered her bare shoulders—Laurentius Weavaros did not approve of his daughters showing skin—and her left wrist was adorned with a pearl bracelet that matched the accents on her ballet flats. Like most dream walkers, Lauren believed that young women should dress modestly, and he wouldn't have been the only one frowning if Deloise had showed up in heels.
Deloise shut off the archroom lights while, ahead, Josh scrambled up the spiral stairs in her squishing shoes. "I only saw a minute of that nightmare, but the dreamer looked like she was caught up in some serious dreamfire," Deloise said, following.
"Yeah. The guy in the trench coat was gassing people to death. Although he was also wearing a gas mask. ... And he said the strangest thing—"
Josh pushed open the door at the top of the steps and let herself into the kitchen pantry. Spice racks and soda caddies cleverly disguised the door to the basement. After Deloise closed it behind herself, only Josh's gritty gray footprints on the floor suggested the room held anything more than nonperishable foodstuffs.
In the kitchen, Josh and Deloise's stepmother, Kerstel, was preparing a tray of bruschetta and goat cheese. The girls' mother had died five years before while trying to open a new archway between the World and the Dream, and three years later, their father had married Kerstel. She was twenty years too young for him and better educated than he was, but she was smart and funny and a good cook, and she thought Josh was a responsible young person, so Josh didn't mind having her around. Deloise positively adored her.
Saidy Avish was assisting Kerstel with the finger foods. Saidy and her husband, Alex, lived on the house's second floor with their daughter, Winsor, who was—or had once been—Josh's best friend.
Excerpted from Dreamfire by Kit Alloway. Copyright © 2015 Kit Alloway. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. There are so many angles that can be taken with the dreaming aspect that Dreamfire ended up being a pleasant surprise for me. I honestly didn’t expect it to be as technical as it was, which was nice, because it made the storyline easier to believe. Were there parts that I felt were a bit over my head? Yes. But, that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the book. As for the characters, there were many of them, and I had a great time getting to know them. Ms. Alloway gives a great mix of personalities in and out of the house (Joshlyn’s sister, Deloise, and Whim are my faves), and the mystery builds as you try to understand how everyone is connected and what exactly went down between Ian and Josh and how that made Josh so emotionally drained. (Not to mention why Josh’s grandpa is such a jerk-face.) Speaking of Josh’s emotional state, I’ve seen a few reviews about her turmoil and I get why, after a while, the beating-herself-up bit got a bit old. But you know what? In real life, that’s what teens do. That’s what **people** do. We don’t always believe in ourselves, or feel that we’re strong, or want to move on if it means we might get hurt again. How many times have we wanted to tell someone to “get over it already”? That’s what Josh needed to do. But it’s not as easy to do as it sounds. Also: don’t want to leave out Will. He was a great guy. I love how smart/learned he was. Some found his part of the storyline to be a bit lacking, but I think there’s going to be a whole lot more that goes into it if/when there’s a sequel. (Note: A lot of times sequels are only possible if the first book makes a decent amount of sales. So if you did enjoy Dreamfire, spread the word! Review, tell someone to check it out, rate it, et cetera. Spread the booklove!) Though I’m not quite sure who, ultimately really WAS the villain (it’s kind of one of those things where the villain you thought was the villain ends up actually being a small part of a much bigger plan, maybe??? I don’t know… I guessing), I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with everyone now that they’re in a different place than they were at the beginning. Bottom line: If you aren't in a rush and want a casual read with an interesting plot, fun characters, nice writing, a few fight scenes, and a unique take on dream walking, I definitely recommend checking out Dreamfire. Ms. Alloway writes lovely prose (such as, "His ancient voice sounded like a record played with a barbed-wire needle, but it carried clearly between the branches.") and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in the future!