In the Dark of Dreams
One of my favorite quotes is from English poet D. H. Lawrence: “They say the sea is cold but the sea contains the hottest blood of all.” The quote refers to whales but could as easily apply to the Krackeni, the mer people of the world of Dirk and Steele. In this, the tenth novel set in that universe, we get a closer look at what they are like, who they are as a people – and what they fear above all else.
Perrin has never forgotten the girl on the beach, the one who tried to save him from a destiny she could not have possibly understood. For years he has met her in his dreams, watching her grow from an awkward girl to enchanting woman. Then even his dreams are stolen from him and he is exiled to the world of the humans. He has had a tough time settling in, but now just as he gets comfortable his world takes a dangerous and deadly turn. Can he keep the woman of his dreams from sharing in his greatest nightmare?
Jenny Jameson has sailed the worlds oceans looking for confirmation of what she saw on the beach that day. She has never found it – till now. The woman lying before her is surely a mer person – but how can Jenny hope to prove that? Then all hell breaks lose and Jenny has a whole new set of problems to worry about. Even as she wrestles with pirates, traitors, and other deadly enemies Jenny finds herself face to face with the boy turned man who started her quest so long ago. Will he prove friend or foe in this strange new world?
As always, Liu’s alternate universe revolves around a set of magical folk who hide in plain sight among us. The Krackeni use the depth and breadth of the oceans to keep away from humanity, but find themselves in constant peril from our growing technological strength and increasing numbers. They, like many others in the magical universe, long for the freedoms they once had. This novel brings to the forefront the changing world order and the fact that humanity is on the brink of finding out that we don’t need to go to space to meet aliens -they are already sharing our planet.
Jenny is a member of the Dirk and Steele family – though not part of the agency – so she has always been aware of this. But her family members haven’t exactly kept up on the latest in the supernatural world, and she knew nothing of the Krackeni’s existence till that fateful day on the beach. She has been looking for Perrin ever since, although she has used the guise of scientific discovery to hide the reason for her search. Now as she comes face to face with him at last she finds herself in danger she never dreamt of. As she and Perrin look for the reason for the increasing oceanic tumult throughout the world, she finds herself trusting more and more in the man beside her. But will that trust prove to be the world’s undoing? With even her own family against her, can she afford to put her faith in a man she knows only in her dreams?
I’ve been reading the Dirk and Steele novels since the beginning, anxiously awaiting each new installment. I’m a lover of all things oceanic, so I was confident this novel would be among my favorites. But I really struggled with the story here. For long stretches, nothing much happens. Liu spends a lot of time giving us big, honking hints at the terrible thing Perrin did and the horrible history Jenny has with her family, so much so that when you finally get to the reveals, you pretty much already know what occurred – and frankly, don’t much care. This combination of lethargy and less than subtle intrigue really put a damper in my reading experience.
Jenny and Perrin as a couple were a bit difficult too. I liked them both but didn’t love them, and didn’t find myself anxiously awaiting how they would get together. We learn that much of the buildup of their relationship took place in dreams, but since we didn’t share these dreams, we missed out on that. The author makes up for it to an extent but again, I just didn’t find myself engaged enough to be excited about it.
What did work was the mystery of the Krackeni’s ancient charge and the solution that Jenny and Perrin find to solve the crisis in the ocean. These portions kept me reading even when I was thoroughly fed up with other aspects.
I can give a qualified recommendation of this book to fans of Liu’s Dirk and Steele novels. It has enough important information in there that it probably needs to be read, and is entertaining enough on its own to be a good, if not great, addition to the series. To all others, I would encourage reading from the beginning with Tiger Eye.