The Dream Merchant, Isobel Hoving Review

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At 640 pages, The Dream Merchant by Isobel Hoving is a monster of a YA book which is easy to get lost in but sometimes misses the mark.

Hoving builds a great and detailed fantasy universe around the concept that there are international corporations which trade in the dream world.  The main character Josh is scoped as a teenage talent to push the corporation to the next frontier - time travelling! 

The concept is fantastic and the world provides such a strong foundation for the story to be built on, meaning that it is a potential 5/5.  HOWEVER, the execution sometimes misses the mark and means it is a 3/5. 

The story is just not robust enough to see the potential through to completion. Although the conceptual world is strong enough to do so, and the characters are equally well developed to push it over the finish line.  Unfortunately, its the plot itself which doesn't hold up in this monster of a book.

The plot is quest based, where Josh and his buddies have to go through SEVEN adventures to get home safe.  Seven is way too much - to build each environment and context (as each takes places in different times and places) and the supporting characters/villains in each location.  I felt a bit fatigued with the adventures by about the fourth quest.  

This over ambition is my main problem with the book, I enjoy the fantasy world - particularly the capitalist nature of it, that the corporations are trying to make money in a very raw and recognisably human way.  It also raises interesting questions about the ethics/morality of commercialising new aspects of life such as dreams, and the use of teenagers to do so (leading to informed consent questions, etc.).  

I just think that you would be fulfilled with 3 or 4 adventures that are well rounded out - such as the child-napping/plague plot lines.  

The characters are well done- particularly Josh and his two companions.  They are a diverse friend group, which I like- Baz (Josh's bestie) is Asian, whilst Teresa is black - and is representative of modern day Britain.  Whilst diverse, it doesn't labour the point it is just a normal teenage friend group.

Another enjoyable aspect is that the book is grounded very well, there is a thread of normalacy which keeps everything real.  This is essential in a book where such whacky adventures are happening, and really adds to the book  

Ultimately The Dream Merchant could have done with a good editor to force the author to make decisions, although it is enjoyable.  It can be simplistic in structure (quest based) and characters but not overly so.  However, it would make a smashing YA film - the costumes are described fantastically, as are the different people in each time/place so there could be a really compelling film made. 

Apologies, I did film a video on this book but I look truly horrendous in it so I have saved you from me!