I admit I enjoyed reading the Twilight books. No, they’re not great literature or written with great skill. But they were a lovely escape, and I had fun. There. But I’ll give this to Stephenie Meyer: she has a great imagination and is truly a good storyteller (this comes even from her own mouth: she’s said she’s more a storyteller than she is a writer). She is also a fine judge of other books. Five summers ago on her website, she recommended the now ridiculously popular The Hunger Games. I went out and read it and found it fascinating, thought-provoking and gripping. Most everyone else seemed to agree.
But she also not too much later recommended a fine “duet” of books by Elizabeth Knox called Dreamhunter and Dreamquake. I went out and got those at the library and found myself utterly transported. The books had such an interesting premise: in a slightly different world than ours back in the early 1900s, an area appears which only certain people can enter. Those people can go in to this area, lie down and sleep, and “catch” dreams, which they can then essentially “broadcast” to a sleeping audience in a dream theater. Interesting idea in itself. But what became even more fascinating was the mystery of why the Place came to be in the first place, and if it has some kind of purpose. By the time the whole reason behind the Place is revealed at the end of the duet, after two wonderfully rich and complex books that were a little dreamlike themselves, I was absolutely blown away. It’s so satisfying as a reader to see bits of a mystery come together magically and then just be solved. But this also had such a powerful poignancy to it that I felt my heart seize up a bit. And the setting and tone, the whole feel of the books, was superb. Original, so real, so powerful.
So I was thrilled to find out a couple of months ago that a new novel was coming from this superlative author, Mortal Fire. I let myself dip into the waters of this new book and its setting and feel, relishing the opportunity to visit Knox’s world again (this book is actually set in the same general place as the other two but 50 years later, and it’s mostly unconnected with the plot of those books, so it’s not necessary to read them first). But as I continued reading and the plot thickened, I found myself gobbling it, not able to put it down. I just rushed headlong to the end, and it was just as satisfying. What a fascinating premise! What a cool way of weaving the threads of story together and making it all make sense at the end! And the setting: again, just so vivid. I came inside (after sitting outside alone reading for two hours) just babbling about how much I loved the book. And a few days later, I still feel the rush of the thrill of discovery and the power of how it all hit me, not just in how it sent my mind spinning, but how it struck me smack in my chest.
What’s interesting to me is that all these books were recommended by Stephenie Meyer, but I haven’t heard a peep about Knox’s from other readers, whereas The Hunger Games became pretty much ubiquitous, not quite annoyingly so. Sometimes I wonder why these outstanding books don’t get more attention. (I think this is also the case with Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising. I am always surprised at just how many of my well-read friends have never even heard of this series, let alone read the five books, either when they came out when I/we was/were young or now.)
At any rate, Elizabeth Knox, you are amazing. I don’t lavish praise on many authors, but you have joined the elite list of authors who really impress me. I hope more discerning readers discover your books.