Author: Mindee Arnett
Genre: supernatural fiction, mythic fiction, young adult
Series: Arkwell Academy #1
Pages: 370 (ARC edition)
Published: expected March 5, 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.
I have to admit I am a little disappointed in this one. Such an intriguing and creative premise - Nightmares are real, paranormal creatures with a unique methodology and mythology - but the novel uses such average execution of those great ideas. Mindee Arnett has the kernels and beginnings of something pretty fantastic, but unfortunately, can't deliver up the goods. There are some good twists and ideas that do show up during a read of The Nightmare Affair, but, for me, this is another book that just can't live up to its synopsis (and cover).
I wanted to like this more than I did. I mean, I really wanted to like this - I'd been anticipating reading The Nightmare Affair for weeks before starting. But the style of the novel itself seemed to work against me from the first chapter. I want to learn about the world, creatures, etc. as I read. I don't want them clumsily infodumped or straight told to me. It's always a better idea to show rather than tell, and unfortunately, this is an author more prone to the latter rather than the former. The plot, the characters, and especially the mystery were shortchanged by how the author chose to write her novel. I adjusted as the book progressed and the problems eased up somewhat, but it was a very rough start and abrupt way to impart knowledge about key facets of the novel to the readers.
For a novel that started out so originally, obvious parallels can be drawn between The Nightmare Affair and the most famous magic boarding school series, Harry Potter. Magic people of all kinds are sent to the same school, and trained to harness their powers. Thankfully, there are numerous differences between the two that also help to keep them independent and original enough. Arnett has clearly thought-out her world and creatures and managed to keep them uniquely hers. The idea of Nightmares especially stands out from the rest. That was what kept me interested and reading when the plotline began to stall around the halfway point. I do love boarding school novels, especially magical ones, so I will certainly be reading the sequels about Arkwell, and can only hope the author diverges even more from the HP path.
I did enjoy some aspects of this novel. Like I said, the idea of the Nightmares is a highpoint, as is main character Dusty. She is not the most defined or evolved main character, but I liked her all the same. She might not stand out as a favorite heroine, but she is more than capable during her investigation. I also liked the twist the author manages to work into her story - it both works for the plot and caught me entirely by surprise. Some readers might not find it believable or feasible, but I thought it was creative and infused some new life into a lagging story.
Great premise, average execution is the TL; DR version. There's promise, and I think talent, in the novel but it founders under a poor style execution. Still, I was entertained and involved enough in the mystery to think this is worth 3/5 stars. I liked it; I just didn't love it the way I wanted to.