Each time I sat down to read The Book of Stolen Dreams ‘for a few minutes’ it turned into an hour. This epic fantasy adventure is exhilarating, exciting and compelling but also, ultimately, moving. David Farr is probably best known as a theatre director and screenwriter for dramas such as The Night Manager and this is his first book for children. An intricate plot, fantastic characters and an imagined world that is both vivid and believable make this a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience.
Rachel and Robert live in the once happy and lively city of Brava in Krasnia, under the rule of cruel dictator Charles Malstain. When their librarian father enlists their help to steal a forbidden book, they are thrown into adventure which sees them separated, and each undertaking a dangerous journey to protect the book and its secrets. With their father captured, it is up to Rachel and Robert to track down the missing final page in order to save him. They will do anything to stop the book falling into Malstain’s hands, for if it does, he could rule forever.
Inspired by David Farr’s great aunt and uncle’s own story this is accomplished storytelling bringing to life a vivid world inspired by reality. Although never intended to be a representation of Nazi Germany Brasnia could portray any country under the control of a dictator. It has a chilling authenticity. The story contains important messages about the value of freedom of speech, thought and imagination, books and libraries. The passing on of an important book from parent to child in an old city library reminded me a little of the opening to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The secrets and mysteries hidden within libraries, book shops and books themselves are an enticing part of this adventure for book lovers of any age. However, central to Rachel and Robert’s journeys is family love and loyalty, compassion and bravery.
The narrative voice although third person feels intimate and confiding, encouraging the reader to become involved. The author’s writing is rich in detail, vocabulary and also in understanding. Those small details all mean something. The various threads beautifully entwine to create a story that contains moments of revelation and understanding for the reader. Each of the different strands and incidental characters all serve a purpose. This is a satisfying combination of epic adventure and coming of age story, of drama and quiet understanding. The importance of personal values and of having a moral compass is integral to the plot. Both Rachel and Robert mature and develop as a result of their experiences and the final stages of the story, by which time these two children have become so real, are extremely poignant.
The Book of Stolen Dreams would be a fabulous read for upper KS2 and KS3 readers. My proof copy is attractively presented however the published version will be hardback with illustrations by Kristina Kister and would be a wonderful present. The Book of Stolen Dreams is published on 30th September by Usborne Books. I should like to thank Fritha Lindqvist for my review proof copy.