Publisher: Tor Teens
Format: Hardcover, 367 pages
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. The setting is Arkwell.
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.
The following review is based on a copy provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
As soon as I read the description of The Nightmare Affair in someone’s Waiting on Wednesday post a couple months ago, I knew that I had to read it! Boarding school, magic, mystery, and Nightmares – ever since I read Sabine in Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series, I’ve been interested in that paranormal creature. And let’s face it, it’s rather rare in YA. Dusty is nothing like Sabine, but I didn’t expect her to be and I still really enjoyed the novel and the world Mindee Arnett created!
We meet Dusty when she climbs into her ex-school mate Eli’s room to feed on his dreams, as she must at determined times to keep up her energy level and magic. Who she feeds on, how long, and when is determined by The Will, a complicated spell keeping magickind’s abilities in check so that they don’t wreck havoc on the human world – believe me, with some of the nastier demon types and the vampires, you really don’t want that to happen! However, Dusty’s feeding trip goes horribly wrong when she first witnesses a horrible murder at her new school, Arkwell Academy, and is then noticed by Eli in the dream! He shouldn’t know about the Academy, and he shouldn’t notice her!
It turns out that Dusty is a dream seer and Eli is her connected partner, and the magickind senate now wants to use them to solve the murder. The thing is, with The Will keeping everyone in check, magickind shouldn’t be able to physically harm one another – so how was that girl killed? As Dusty and her friends try to solve the murder, much of what she believes to know about her family and her world is called into question… and she might just have made herself the murderer’s next target.
First off, I have to say something about the voice. The story is told in the first person from Dusty’s point of view, and while she’s plenty snarky and courageous, her voice seemed very young to me at first. More middle grade than YA. I don’t know whether I got used to it or whether it changed later in the novel, but it then felt more YA to me after a while. I liked Dusty, but sometimes I also wanted to yell at her because of some stupid decisions she took and how she thought she had to solve it all on her own. What I enjoyed about her is her resilience – she’s an outsider at Arkwell, first off because she’s the only nightmare and her mum isn’t exactly everyone’s darling, second because she’s half human. Her magic abilities manifested only about a year ago, so she’s way behind in her skills compared to her school mates and they often treat her as if she were disabled or magically deficient. That’s also why it sucks for Eli to be transferred to her school – he’s now the only one without any magic at all, and being transferred in your senior year sucks anyway.
I loved how quirky Dusty and her friends were! Her room mate and best friend is a siren. All sirens are naturally beautiful and alluring, but Selene doesn’t use this like many of her kind do – instead she protests against the sexual objectification of sirens. There’s also fairies, various shifters, demons… the world building and magic were among my favorite things in the novel! It takes a while until the workings of The Will are explained, but once that happens I got a way better understanding of the parallel world Dusty inhabits and how it interweaves with the human world. Her magic classes and some of her teachers were also awesome! And there were a lot of details I thought were really imaginative, as well as a creature that was an allusion to a poem I really like (I asked Mindee if I got it right) and to Arthurian legend.
Now I’m sure you guys want to know about the romance… Well, there is romance and also some steam-ish scenes, but it doesn’t go overboard. Also I think some people will label the constellation a love triangle, though I’m not so sure about that. No question, Dusty thinks Eli is hot, but that doesn’t mean she’s in love with him. In fact, it’s hard for them at the beginning to even be friends. On the other hand there is Paul, who is super smart, fun, and as I first thought a great match for Dusty and a help in her cause. Paul surprised me several times in the story and was also used to broach an issue I had not expected in the novel but was glad to see included. There’s chemistry with Dusty for both guys, eventually, but I’m not going to say more than that. In any case, if it is a love triangle then it isn’t your typical one, and the romance isn’t the main focus of the novel.
Something I didn’t expect was for Dusty’s mum to be so involved – parents tend to be rather absent in YA and while I liked that it was different here, I also empathized with Dusty’s annoyance at her mum’s meddling after she pretty much left her alone with her dad (they’re divorced) before she showed any Nightmare abilities. Also, her mum’s a trouble maker and at times does very suspicious things… but she’s also pretty badass ;)
Overall, I really enjoyed The Nightmare Affair. I liked the world building and characters, it was something new! The book was fun but also serious because, well… it’s about murder! I never suspected who the bad guy was. Maybe I should have, but I really didn’t see it coming! There were some minor issues with the pacing, it wasn’t as creepy as I had hoped, and I thought some of the minor characters were pretty standard, but the other aspects more than made up for it! The novel is a great debut, and I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series!
Have you guys read The Nightmare Affair? What did you think of it? I'm especially curious about your perception of the love triangle and voice thing that I mentioned...
If you haven't read it, does it sound like something you'd enjoy? Can you maybe recommend any other books featuring Nightmares to me?