My last review of 2023... 'The Republic of Dreams' is a totally engrossing, wonderfully imaginative sequel to 2021's 'Shadow Town'. Ambitious in scope with a story full of surprises, Richard Lambert excels as a fantasy writer with the power of a dreamweaver. He infuses his dreamworld with realism and our world with the sense of dreaminess; connecting them in strange and alarming ways: both tender and microcosmic, and grand and cosmic. A half-angel takes the underground, shadowy villains infiltrate the government, a nightmare lizard-man attempts an assassination, tree-wolves roam, and dream-blobs and orphans aid a revolution... Lambert's imagination knows no bounds. I really enjoyed this startling and unpredictable fantasy of parallel worlds - one of the Observer's best children's books of 2023.
TWO WORLDS. ONE VILLAIN AND A RACE AGAINST TIME. Nicodemus Maladain has entered our world from Balthasar, intent on revenge. Can Toby and Tamurlaine, about to be crowned Queen of Balthasar, defeat him? Time is running out and Malladain holds the upper hand in a land of shadows where no one can be trusted.
If 'Shadow Town' was set up, then 'The Republic of Dreams' is where the possibilities established are pushed to their imaginative limits. The book opens in daring and startling fashion with villainous Maladain literally dropping from the sky into our world. The story never lets go and continues to take surprising turns that escalate the consequences for both our world and for Balthasar. Lambert's writing is the equivalent of surrealist frottage: rubbing against the grain of worlds and conjuring imagery that dazzles, amuses and fascinates. An example: as revolution begins, a chimpanzee sits back with a cigarette, doing the crossword in the paper. Just like a dream, elements are random and unexplained, while remaining logic informs political machinations and mounting dangers. Within this dream landscape are also characters to adore: Toby, reeling from his parents' divorce, and Tamurlaine, a Queen with time running out on her kingdom. But I also enjoyed the company of Anon, the half-angel, teenage Burston, with political aspirations, and lovely Jinky in search of a home - their adventures in our world are funny, tender and reach a nail-biting climax.
I hope there will be a third book as there are still questions remaining. How does Toby's father know about Balthasar and how will this change their relationship even more? Will the government in our world continue to be influenced by dreams? Will Toby and Tamburline's friendship deepen?
Richard Lambert's fantasy series is unlike many others: a kind of modern Wizard of Oz where Oz and our world collide with dreams and revolution. This is perfect for able readers in Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 who seek strange and epic adventures.