|There was a boy, A very strange enchanted boy. They say he wandered very far, very far, over land and sea... – Nature Boy, Nat King Cole
Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived with her family near the beach. There, she met a boy who just so happened to be a merman (merboy?). Though the boy was soon dragged back to the sea by his merman father (merdad?), he never forgot the girl he once met on the beach, and she never forgot him. In fact, they dreamt of each other often, and thus grew up together, inside of their dreams.
Cute premise, eh? Well, take this “Nature Boy” themed story, throw in a ton of violence and you have In the Dark of Dreams.
In the Dark of Dreams shows a world where people live under the illusion that magic and supernatural being don’t exist. Jenny knows better, as her family is riddled with magical people (who are mostly evil), and she spends her days sailing the seven seas looking for evidence of the boy from the sea she met sixteen years ago.
Perrin is a merman, who was exiled from the sea. He now lives on land, working a crap job at an aquarium and basically trying to stay alive and out of prison. He had resigned himself to a short and awful life on land, alone. But when he starts dreaming of Jenny (the girl he met on the beach as a kid) being in trouble, he knows he needs to track her down by any means necessary. So he goes back to the sea to find her.
That’s the beginning premise of this story. I could go on, but it’s really complicated to sum up, so I’ll simply say this: It’s a dark and violent story focusing of the stopping of the mythical Kraken from waking up and destroying the world, Perrin’s redemption, and the love between Perrin and Jenny.
Jenny is a tough, brave and jaded woman who knows the world is full of monsters, human or otherwise. She steers clear of relationships, especially the advances of Alexander, her co-worker and shipmate aboard the The Calypso Star. She trusts very few people and is blunt and to the point. She lives, she works, and she searches for the boy from the sea she met back when she was a child.
Perrin is tough, angry, often violent and huge. He’s large enough that he’s always afraid that he will hurt Jenny, and a couple of times, he does. Unintentionally of course. He has a lot of baggage and very little to live for. Really, the only thing that keeps him going is the hope that he will one day meet Jenny again.
When they do finally meet, the atmosphere is anything but electric. Jenny had been attacked not only by a shipmate, but she also has a parasite attached to the back of her neck that is slowly killing her. They work together, trying to find a tiny sea creature called the Kra’a, which is the key to stopping The Kracken. While the feelings Jenny and Perrin have always had for each other grow stronger, their courtship is far from romantic. It’s survival. Plain and simple.
In the Dark of Dream is a mix of action adventure, fantasy and romance. As a whole, I enjoyed the story. In some ways, Liu’s novel twists the genre somewhat. The novel is graphic, but mostly in its violence and not its romance. The romance, when they have enough time to actually have a romantic moment is touching, but on the whole, there just isn’t a lot of time. After all, they have a world to save.
The reason I gave In the Dark of Dreams three hearts out of five is not because the book it rough around the edges, but because the roughness is repetitive. Secrets are held for too long and Perrin’s fear that he is too much of a beast and therefore doesn’t deserve a woman like Jenny gets tiring after a while. I found myself thinking on more than one occasion, “Ok, I get it, you’re rough, massive and have had a hard life. Jenny doesn’t care about any of that, she only cares for you. So get over yourself.”
Overall, In the Dark of Dreams is an entertaining and engaging ride. I liked the fact that it was different from other romances, in that it was hardly romantic, but still worked out for the couple. I liked how Liu used Merpeople in her novel without it coming off as extremely hokey, and I liked Jenny and Perrin both together and apart. They’re interesting characters.
The supporting characters were well crafted and while the majority of them got their butts handed to them on a more than regular basis, they still had depth, which always helps with the overall quality of a story.
I would recommend In the Dark of Dreams to anyone who likes their romances a little rough around the edges. However, if graphic violence bothers you, then I will warn you now, there is more than a little in Liu’s story. That being said, the Perrin and Jenny’s journey is rather touching, they learn from each other, and as Nat King Cole once sang: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved In return."