by Christy J. Breedlove
When seventeen-year-old Jory Pike cannot shake the hellish nightmares of her parent’s deaths, she turns to an old family heirloom, a dream catcher. Even though she’s half blood Chippewa, Jory thinks old Indian lore is so yesterday, but she’s willing to give it a try. However, the dream catcher has had its fill of nightmares from an ancient and violent past. After a sleepover party, and during one of Jory’s most horrific dream episodes, the dream catcher implodes, sucking Jory and her three friends into its own world of trapped nightmares. They’re in an alternate universe—locked inside of an insane web world filled with murders, beasts and thieves. How can they find the center of the web where all good things are allowed to pass? Where is the light of salvation? Are they in hell?
Albert pointed to the board and began to explain. Choice, who had followed them, sidled up to the counter to listen.
“It is said that Iktomi, the great trickster and searcher of wisdom, appeared to an old spiritual leader in the form of a spider. Iktomi, the spider, picked up the elder’s willow hoop, which had feathers, horsehair and beads on it and began to spin a web. He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life and the many forces–some good and some bad—and how it was important to listen to the clean, good forces and to avoid the darker ones that could hurt and lead you astray.”
“The big spider was the teacher, then?” asked Choice.
Jory rolled her eyes, having heard the legend before.
Albert’s eyes became slits. “Yes. When Iktomi finished the web, he returned it to the elder and said ‘The web is a perfect circle with a hole in the middle. All of the bad forces, visions and dreams enter onto the web where they are trapped and held. All of the good forces find their way into the center and slip through, to travel down the feather and bead path, arriving upon the sleeper. If you believe in the Great Spirit, the web will filter your visions and give you pleasant dreams. The bad ones will never pass.’”
“But, Grandfather, said Jory, “the dream catcher was used for babies and small children to comfort them. They were used above cradleboards.”
Albert seemed not to have heard her words, having focused on Choice. “And when the sun rose the next morning it would wash all of the bad spirits from the catcher, cleansing it for another sleep cycle. It was always made to fall apart and wither after years of use so that it would never be filled up with the dark things.”
“Damn,” said Choice. “What’s it made of? Little sticks and strings?”
“They were made for adults too,” said Albert, looking at Jory. “The hoop is made from the twigs of the red willow, formed and dried. It is woven with the thread from the stalk of the stinging nettle. The very old ones have sinew for web. The beads are a decoration, and only one gemstone is used to show that there is only one creator in the web of life. Long ago, the government of this country outlawed the use of real eagle feathers, so most are made from feathers of other birds.”
Choice nodded and waved his hand at the board. “Then they’re just copies?”
“Not these,” said Albert. “I made many of them as a youth when no such law existed.”
“You’ve got the real deal then,” said Choice, his eyes roaming over the board until he looked up toward the ceiling and saw an enormous dream catcher hanging from a rafter. Jory had seen it before. It was as large as a basketball hoop, trailing long, elegant feathers. But it appeared that it hadn’t been cleaned or dusted, which gave it a brittle, antique appearance. It looked like thick strings of gut or leather had been used to fashion the web. A few talons and claws hung from individual strands, a marked difference from the construction of the others.
“Where did that one come from?” asked Choice, indicating the large catcher with the flick of his eyes.
Albert steadied himself with a hand on the counter to look up, his voice a mystic whisper. “It is the oldest one, the one passed down from the ages, from the time just after the great turtle. It was not meant to be used, but only copied. It is the one that carries the design for all to learn from…the one you would say is the…I have not the word for it.”
“The prototype,” said Choice. “The original.”
“Yes,” said Albert. “It was considered a treasured heirloom. I cannot say whether it was used to capture the bad spirits or not or whose hands and tribe it passed from. I only know it is the greatest grandfather of them all. It represents all the nations of all the human beings.”
Albert lifted one of the smaller dream catchers from the board with delicate fingers and extended it to Jory. “Granddaughter, I make this a gift to you. May you find protection in it with the blessings of all our ancestors. It will drive the devil spirit from your thoughts and give you peace.”
Jory gave him an endearing smile. “It’s really generous, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer. But, Grandfather, you have to understand that the ways and teachings of the old ones are so very lost in today’s culture. I don’t think I have the proper faith to make it work.”
Albert grunted. “You are saying it is an embarrassment to carry the blood of your family tribe and you find suspicion with things that are held dear and sacred.” He glanced at Choice. “It is a shame that the tribal youth of today–the Ojibway or Chippewa–have no time for the chants and songs, nor do they understand the words in the old stories.”
Albert looked at the large, front panel windows and out into the street. “This is an age of bending metal, cutting down the trees of the forest, fouling the waters and blackening the earth with soot and chemicals. The sound of the flute song and drums has disappeared, along with the dances and animal pantomimes. Today the music is born of electric violence and its words are lost in savage mutterings and howls. The world–the great circle upon which all creatures great and small live–is an angry, dying spirit.” He looked back at Jory. “That is the today you speak of, precious granddaughter. You have lost touch with your origins. The spirit cries out for your return. You have only to give heed to that calling. It’s never left you.”
~Buy SCREAMCATCHER on Amazon
I’m always up for a fantasy adventurer incorporating cultures I’m less familiar with. So, when I got the opportunity to read Screamcatcher, I jumped on it. Dreamcatchers are not something I’ve seen a lot of fiction books about—perhaps I’m running in the wrong book circles—but regardless, my curiosity was peaked.
In terms of the dreamcatcher, I was not disappointed. Breedlove captures the tradition and purpose behind it so well. I felt like I got a history lesson without getting bogged down and taken from the story. The way in which the dreamcatcher is used is also really cool. When the characters get dropped into this alternate world, things move fast, action and mystery unraveling into something I wasn’t quite expecting but did enjoy.
On the flip side, while the pacing moved at a steady clip, there were parts where I felt like it could have slowed down. There were a lot of action scenes. It worked for the story, but the character development got a little lost behind them. There would be some great sharing moments that got interrupted by something attacking the group, and those moments were lost. Sometimes, it never felt like the story got back to them. As a result, the characters felt a bit underdeveloped, and their arcs played out in a sequence of each just getting more tired, hurt, and irritable. In particular, I had a difficult time with Darcy. She complained a lot, which didn’t make her very likeable, and she was referred to as being a girl and so young when she was actually sixteen (only one year younger than Jory). I kept having to remind myself she wasn’t twelve. She was also very weak and took some kind of medication. I never found out what was up with her, whether the meds were for something or just drugs. Thus, Darcy just kept being the kind of annoying one.
Overall, Screamcatcher brings some interesting culture to the table. The world was fascinating, and the dreamcatcher played a great role in everything. The characters could have been more fleshed out, but I’m glad I took the opportunity to read this book.
Christy J. Breedlove (Chris H. Stevenson), originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer, housecleaner and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult, but has published in multiple genres and categories. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing.
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