Seven Dreams by Charlotte E. English

Seven Dreams

“My dear,” said Lady Fenella grandly, “You are speaking to an expert.” Her voice, too, had changed; all of its exaggerated plumminess had disappeared, and a mild Irbellian accent had emerged. She made a curtsey of exquisite gracefulness, a single dimple appearing in one cheek with her mischievous smile, and straightened. “We’ll return,” she said. “I would take you along in the carriage, only I would find that a trifle difficult to explain. The needs of the masquerade must always come first, as I’m sure you know.”

With this pronouncement, her ladyship got back into her spectacular carriage — the paint of which, upon closer inspection, might appear to be a little too shiny, and perhaps rather too new — and waited while her brother regained his seat beside her. She thumped twice upon the roof with a suitably commanding air, and the carriage drove off once more.

“Serena,” said Lord Bastavere. “What was that about?”

His sister, Miss Serena Carterett, shrugged. “I never pass up the chance to recruit, Fabe. Good people are awfully difficult to find when you want them.”

Serena and Fabian are a brother-and-sister crimefighting team, part of a shadowy organisation devoted to frustrating the plans of a criminal fraternity known as the Yllandu. Then a riddle appears in the sky, and their group finds itself pitched into the middle of a mystery of hidden locations and precious, magical artefacts.

Seven Dreams is set in the same world as English’s earlier Draykon books and takes place a little after the resolution of that trilogy — but it begins a new and self-contained story arc, with a different group of lead characters, so enjoyment shouldn’t depend on having read the earlier books. (Although I highly recommend you do, anyway!)

Serena is an excellent leader, and I loved the team she’s built around her. As well as her brother there’s Teyo, who has draykon heritage with all the shapeshifting powers of his race, and is a keen knitter; Egg, a woman who takes no nonsense from anyone (including the parents who saddled her with a name she considers over-elaborate); and Jisp, a gecko-like creature who’s as much a part of the team as any of the humans. And the beginning of the book finds them recruiting another draykon shapeshifter to their company. I’m a huge fan of books that show competent, kind-hearted collaboration, and these characters really shine their brightest when they come together as a team.

The Yllandu are inevitably less fully characterised, as we don’t get any point of view characters amongst the bad guys, but there’s a complex plot for our heroes to uncover, and widespread corruption to tackle. An adventure story that spans time as well as distance, and leaves a number of mysteries open for future books to explore.

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