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Literature / Dreamwood

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Dreamwood is a Young Adult fantasy novel by Heather Mackey. Set in an alternate history version of the United States' Pacific Northwest region during the 1800's, Dreamwood tells the story of Lucy Darrington, a young girl who has just run away from boarding school in search of her father, the professional ghost hunter William Darrington. Discredited due to his approach to supernatural research, Lucy's father has set off for the redwood forests of Saarthe in order to solve a problem that will redeem his reputation and save the local timber industry. Saarthe's trees are falling victim to a plague, and a rare substance may hold the key to its cure. When he seemingly vanishes during his mission, Lucy takes it upon herself to discover what happened, with no thoughts to spare for the predatory forces - both human and supernatural - that wait for her on Saarthe's forbidden island known as The Devil's Thumb...


This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: Angus Morraine, to such an extent that most of the time he comes off as a reasonable authority figure. The closer he gets to Dreamwood, however, the more his true colors start to show.
  • An Axe to Grind: Jank, a lumberjack by trade, wields one to protect himself against "devils." Morraine carries a special obsidian-bladed model for dispatching nature spirits and ghosts.
  • Apocalyptic Log: William Darrington's journals that Lucy keeps finding.
  • Arc Words: "Take nothing that is not given to you."
    • "He killed them all."
  • Ax-Crazy: Jank, who becomes increasingly so the more certain he is that "The Devil" is stalking him.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Angus Morraine and His-Sey-Ak, the "Devil" of Devil's Thumb.
  • The Big Guy: Pete, who excels in outdoor survival, to the frequent chagrin of city slicker smart girl Lucy.
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  • Blue and Orange Morality: His-Sey-Ak is indisputably hostile toward humans and will kill them at the slightest provocation. Taken in context, however, it is all but impossible to think of his actions as evil based on a human understanding of the word.
  • Death World: The Thumb, where doing so much as picking a feather up off the ground is a death sentence. It's so bad that a special potion has to be imbibed just to sleep there, lest the Thumb weaponize your own dreams against you.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Lucy encounters Niwa twice before she reaches Devil's Thumb and both times it seems like she will play a vital role in the former's adventures from that point onward. Suffice to say, it doesn't happen.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Lost Settlement for Abel Dodd's grandmother.
  • Face–Heel Turn: His-Sey-Ak underwent one prior to the events of the story, shifting from a protective spirit to a destructive one after his "children" (the Dreamwood trees,) were all cut down.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Lucy and Pete take a really long time to come around to one another, but once they are there they become a very solid team.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Both Lucy and William Darrington, who have created and are skilled in the use of a variety of Magitek gadgets that aid them in their work.
  • Genius Loci: Devil's Thumb, every square inch of which is under the direct surveillance and protection of its guardian spirit, His-Sey-Ak.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Done by His-Sey-Ak using tree branches; one of his favorite methods of executing transgressors.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: Dreamwood is coveted not only because of its healing properties, but for the feelings of well-being and confidence it inspires by simple proximity. This is probably because Dreamwood trees are giant carnivorous plants that trap their prey by making it feel calm and peaceful as it lures them in to digest them.
  • Magical Native American: Being set in a world where Native Americans successfully resisted conquest and settled into uneasy co-existence with their white neighbors, this trope gets thoughtfully examined. To the settlers, the Lupine people are shapeshifting sorcerers of unbelievable power. When Lucy and Pete meet them, they turn out to be pretty ordinary folks who bicker about how to solve the Rust problem and whose leader is drowning in paperwork.
  • Magitek: Ghosts are regarded as a scientific reality and ghost hunters like the Darringtons have developed a variety of impossible steampunk gadgets in order to fight them. Ulfric's Dreamwood-powered toys are an even more fantastic version.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Lucy - and by extension, the reader, - does not see what happens to Morraine inside the fog. Based on the sounds she hears, it can't be good.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The mysterious toymaker, Ulfric. Lucy later speculates that perhaps he only appears when he needs to be found.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: His-Sey-Ak feeds off of William Darrington in order to create a seed.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: His-Sey-Ak, beginning with the massacre of the Lost Settlement and ongoing in the form of Rust.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Somewhat averted in-story as it is explained that electricity disrupts ghosts. Hence, as the world modernizes, there will be less and less of a market for William's fabulous ghost-hunting inventions. Even so, one would think that a device that sees backward into time would always be able to find a buyer...
  • Rock Beats Laser: Pete's ghost protection stone, which Lucy spends most of the novel scoffing at, ultimately saves her from the ghost fog when her own ghost sweeper, which she has spent most of the novel touting the abilities of, quickly fails.
  • Starter Villain: The Hanged Man: a ghost that Lucy encountered on one of her first missions with her father, and that still affects her to this day.
  • Steam Punk: Used minimally, and always in the form of William and Lucy's array of ghost-fighting gadgets.
  • Those Two Guys: Jank and Silas: by far the two most talkative and argumentative of Morraine's team of Mauve Shirts.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: One of many powers that the settlers attribute to the Lupine people, and the Lupines do nothing to disabuse them of the notion.

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