Monday, December 17, 2012

Dream Caster: Book One of The Dream Cycle by Najeev Raj Nadarajah

Dream Caster: Book One of The Dream Cycle
by Najeev Raj Nadarajah

Life couldn't possibly get any worse. Or could it?
Haunted by memories of his massacred settlement, sixteen year old Weaver seeks cover in a hidden refuge among the remains of a ruined city once known as Toronto. In the midst of building a new life, Weaver discovers he can do something strange: cast dreams into reality. Convinced it’s just an anomaly, Weaver ignores it. That is until he learns of a mysterious man who harnesses the ability to animate nightmares into existence; the very man who ruined his world. The peaceful life Weaver hoped for begins to unravel as waves of chaos begin to break loose about him. In a race against time, Weaver must learn to cast aside his denial of being a dream caster to master the accursed ability that has befallen him, before his new home is destroyed and humanity’s pushed to the brink of extinction.
Life couldn’t possibly get any worse. Or perhaps, it could...

Weaver woke without rising and lay still with his eyes shut.  The warm hay felt soothing to the touch.  I could lie here all day, thought Weaver.  How swell that would be, to enjoy a day without having to put up with Ruben’s nonsense.  He smiled inwardly as the notion of ridding himself of Ruben delighted his thoughts.              
Eyes closed, he rolled onto his back and flinched as the swelling bruise on his chest ached where that girl had hit him before tossing him to the ground.  Weaver suspected that she’d snuck up from the side while he was distracted by the doe and swung the shaft of her spear into his midsection. 
Who are you and where did you come from? He pondered. 
Rubbing his chest to ease the pain, Weaver sighed then inhaled deeply.  A burn ripped through his lungs and he rolled over coughing.  His body wracked with coughs as it tried to clear his lungs.  That was when he heard the panicked whinnying of horses.  Weaver kneeled and looked around to see a dense black fog creep in through the cracks of the thatched ceiling.
Smoke?  He had only heard of smoke in stories told on hollows eve, but now in its presence, he was almost at a loss for what to do.  Get out of here you fool, his mind screamed at him as it recalled memories of the stories he had heard from elders in the past.  Where there’s smoke, there’s sure to be…
Weaver broke through the rear door and backed away from the stable.  Thick clouds of black smoke swirled above and suffocated the late afternoon sky as a rumbling roar rose above the screams and whinnying of horses.  Weaver raised his cloak above his mouth and lowered his head as he rushed back into the stable.  The horses danced and kicked in frightened panic.  One by one, he ran down the aisle and opened the latches to the stalls as he made his way towards the front door.  The horses broke through the stable door just as Weaver slipped out and into a world thrown into chaos.
Orange and yellow flames licked the roofs of houses all about as screams of terror rose and swelled above the roar of the flames.  Thick clouds of smoke suffocated the afternoon light, casting darkness upon the settlement where the flames had yet to spread.
Fear gripped Weaver and held his legs rooted where he stood.  Fire tore through the dark expanse above and a deep deafening chorus of howls broke out in the distance. 
He watched as people ran between the narrow streets, blood and ashes painting their faces.  An unrecognizable corpse lay sprawled on the ground, a burning wooden plank lying above the broken body.  A woman sat resting against a post, her body burnt beyond recognition.  Weaver began moving in a daze, unable to comprehend the terror that unravelled around him.
Another man’s body lay charred and broken, beside him lay a smouldering walking stick.  Ruben…Weaver faltered in his steps.  A pang of loss washed through Weaver, regretting the last thoughts he’d had of the man who had raised him.  Snapping out of his state, Weaver shook his head in disbelief and ran into the heart of the settlement, ran from the pain of loss, ran towards the turmoil to help save the lives of others. many dead!  His mind screamed at him as he ran till he came upon a wounded man kneeling hunched on the ground.  “CAPTAIN!” Weaver yelled as he ran to his aid. 
“What what are you still doing here?” Captain Sim asked through laboured breaths.  “You must get out, now!   Go, run!”
“Listen to me,” the captain cut Weaver off before he could begin.  “Listen to me, Weaver.  Get out of the settlement as fast as you can,” he drew a deep breath to ease the pain.  “Get out and get as far away as possible...towards the river.  Further if you must.  Just go!”
“I can help, believe me Captain, I can help.”
“You must help yourself, Weaver.  Get out and as far away as you can.  It’s here...Weaver, you have to run!”
“I don’t understand, what’s here?”
“The hounds,” Captain Sim choked out as he pointed towards a distant shadow of growing smoke.  “Go, now!”
Weaver looked towards the smoke and watched as from its depths, out stepped a hound wreathed in shadow and flames.  Spittle of liquid fire salivated from its mouth, burning the ground beneath it as it growled low and menacingly deep.  Its flaming eyes locked on the captain as it began prowling forward, gathering speed as it honed in on its victim.
The big man stood and shoved Weaver away, drawing his punishing rod.  “Good bye, Weaver,” he choked out as he turned to face his fate.
The last Weaver saw before he turned and fled was the captain raising his rod and rushing in to meet his doom.  Weaver turned just in time to see the Hearing Hall crumble as a pack of fiery hounds tossed their weight in through the stone walls to the frightening screams of the women and children that hid within.  Tears flowed down Weaver’s face as he turned and sped through a maze of houses and as far away as he could till he came upon the southern border where the stable stood smoking. 
Weaver dropped to his knees and panted.  What do I do?  His mind screamed in fear and agony.  He looked up to see black beady eyes with fluttering long lashes staring back at him.  Hazel, thought Weaver as he saw the young colt standing by the edge of the stable, afraid to make a mad dash as she had once done on a fine summer day, five years before.
A growl made him turn as a hound leaped through the fire and landed in the clearing leading up to the stable.  Another hound followed, dragging the burning carcass of horse with its powerful jaws.  Hazel panicked and reared, turning to flee just as Weaver ran towards her and climbed onto her unsaddled back. 
RUN GIRL!” Weaver shouted into her ears as he lay flat and hugged her neck.
With three powerful strides, Hazel took off south across the grasslands towards the thickets that stood a distance away by the frozen river.  Weaver peeked over his shoulder and saw the hounds as they took off leaping by the stable, setting the place ablaze with their passing.  “RUN GIRL, RUN!”  Weaver continued to shout, trying to lend Hazel speed to outrun the accursed beasts. 
The pounding of Hazel’s frantic pace rattled Weaver, adding to the throbbing headache.  He tried to look back over his shoulders, but a sudden turn in Hazel’s path sent his head spinning.  Weaver felt his fingers slip and the dizziness mixed with the headache overwhelmed his focus.  He felt Hazel dart and turn one last time before emptiness rushed in to take her place.
Weaver hit the ground hard and tumbled to a stop.  The black sky spun about him, darkening till all light was extinguished and Weaver saw no more.

By Sinthu
What are the three most popular genres? Young adult, paranormal/fantasy, and dystopian fiction.
Now, take all three, commercialize it, add a great story line, several pinches of moments that hint at a very, very deep back story, a list of great characters, a lot of suspense, and a great mystery... and there we have it: Dream Caster. A very spectacular young adult dystopian fantasy novel.
I enjoyed Weaver's character development from naïve, uncertain, worried, to showing signs of growing into his strengths.
Toggen is absolutely bad ass. This guy would be a great character to watch on screen. Secondary character Dell was hilarious. I really enjoyed the scenes he was a part of.

About the Author
At first, when asked what inspired him to write, Najeev Raj Nadarajah excitedly spoke of that one faithful winter day when he picked up a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and fell in love with the fantasy genre. But upon further reflection, he wound back the clock to the autumn of 1991 when he was first introduced to Robert McConnell's classic children's book, Norbert Nipkin.
With a lack of cable television and video games, Nadarajah turned to reading books and watching fantastical films as his pastime. If you are looking for the spark that blossomed into what is now his love for writing and storytelling, look no further.
At first, Nadarajah failed to find the confidence and belief in himself to succeed. Fortunately, giving up was also not in his nature. Nadarajah struggled through high school, often day-dreaming in class, then went on to stumble about through a number of degrees and diplomas while attending a few post-secondary institutions. However, through all his ups and downs, he always dreamt and hoped of one day becoming a world renowned author.
For four long years, he worked on a manuscript to an epic fantasy novel called Helmdör which he poured all of his free time and energy into. Countless rejections later, discouraged, and at the end of his line, Nadarajah self-published and soon discarded the novel out of frustration knowing that he could do loads better. Failure after failure, mixed with years of ill-fortune soon led to many sleepless nights and countless bad dreams.
It was while struggling to find his way through life, and while struggling to find an original idea that he found his way to the University of Toronto, St George Campus in downtown Toronto where he landed a job as a security guard at the Robarts Library. Two weeks later, awoken by yet another nightmare, Nadarajah left behind the discomforts of his bed and made his way to work a few hours ahead of schedule to clear his mind of a post-apocalyptic vision. It was while walking about the streets of the campus that his original idea struck him as if it had always been harboring in the back of his mind, waiting for the right moment to present itself. And that's how Dream Caster came into existence. Within mere weeks, four novels were planned in the series, and Najeev Raj Nadarajah has not looked back since.
Nadarajah continues to live in Toronto, Ontario, and continues to work at the University of Toronto. He still lacks cable television, prefers books over video games, and still enjoys reading fantasy classics and watching movies with all forms of fantastical elements. When not reading and writing, Nadarajah plays hockey, trains and plays with his cockatiels, and continues to go on random escapades that leaves others scratching their heads.
Dream Caster: Book One of The Dream Cycle was officially released on 19 December. It will be followed by Dreamweaver: Book Two of The Dream Cycle in March 2013.