Member Reviews

Loved this lush fantastical world! Huerta does a great job of creating a story that is both lyrical and full of interesting, dynamic characters. Highly recommend.

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This was my first time reading a fantasy book inspired by ancient Mesoamerica, and it did not disappoint! I loved the storytelling elements and how magical it felt. For a debut, this was very well done and not to mention unique. Enjoyed every second of reading this book. Looking forward to what the author has in store for the future, I'd read anything that Lizz Huerta writes after this.

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First Impression: Half the narrative; from Indir’s perspective was really hard to follow at first. Took me about 5 or 6 chapters before I started understanding the city of Alcanzeh

Indir, born to the sacred Night Temple of dreamers in the city of Alcanzeh, has lost her gift; something that has never happened before & there are no stories of. Saya on the other hand has gifts with no history, only a cold and distant mother who tricks people by passing off Saya’s gifts as her own. This is a slow build story but once you get past the initial confusion you start to fall in love with the tribes. Especially the way a majority of them deeply respect the earth & listen to her stories. I also loved the creation story of the twin serpents who when they shed their skin made the land, mountains and valleys & when they cried tears of joy made the oceans and rivers and lakes. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to experience the big game that Alcan was pushing for; there was a long build up that I thought would end in the sacrificial game. Also a little disappointed that this story ends on a fade to black type of cliffhanger & some questions barely answered meaning there better be another book because now I’m deeply invested in these characters and this universe! I look forward to reading more by Huerta.

This is a unique book for fans of fantasy that expresses the importance of oral storytelling & an introduction to what ancient Mesoamerican interpersonal & societal structures might have been like.

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3.5 stars rounded up because I think this is such a promising beginning.

This book is definitely going to lose some people in the first 10% because the character count and information shared is incredibly dense. I wish I'd had a character map, and I hope that the final version of the book does. For those that can power through, they're in for a treat. The story is inspired by ancient Mesoamerica (and dedicated to the Indigenous Kumeyaay people who lived in the area Huerta writes about). Full of lush worldbuilding and theology, it introduces us to Indir, a Dreamer who has ceased being able to Dream (note the capital D) and Saya, a young girl who somehow has the ability to Dream despite not being a Dreamer. It had one of my favourite plot devices, which is the meeting point where you discover things are maybe a bit less obvious than you would have thought. Though it reads like an extended prologue, it was rich and engaging, and I'm looking forward to reading more from Lizz Huerta.

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Full review to be posted on 3/21/22 on the Forever Young Adult blog.

Trigger Warning: The books features an abusive guardian and a scene where a character is drugged (though not physically harmed, the descriptions of her altered state may be triggering).

Cover Story: Beautifully Colorful

The directness of the girl’s stare, the delicate shadows across her face; oh, it’s so good. There’s so much richness to the colors and the symbols representing moments in the story. It really feels like the artist consulted the manuscript or the author herself to get all the little touches right, and I love that.

The Deal:

Indir and her family are Dreamers, people who can walk in the spirit world and divine truths, speak to spirits, and offer practical, life-saving wisdom. They reside in a temple in the capital city of Alcanzeh, and Indir’s mother is a close advisor to the king until his death. Unfortunately, his newly returned son seems to have nothing but contempt for the Dreamers’ role or the traditions of his kingdom. All signs portend a new era of chaos is coming, and Indir isn’t sure where that leaves her—especially when she’s harboring a life-altering secret about her gift.

Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Saya also Dreams—but she’s never been formally trained, and she’s grown up keeping it a secret from everyone except her mother, always moving on to a new place before questions can be asked. Chaos comes to Saya as well as she seeks to regain control over her own life and realizes that everything she’s ever been told about herself…may be a lie.

BFF Charm: Yay x2

It’s hard to say who I liked visiting with more as the chapters swapped between Indir and Saya’s perspectives. Indir has the benefit of status and station and a protective, loving family unit, but was sheltered, partly by choice and partly because she never left the walls of the city as a Dreamer. Meanwhile, Saya has seen much of the world, forced to travel constantly her entire life, yet she is sheltered from forming true connections with people because of her cruel and overbearing mother. Both are being stretched and pulled in directions they’ve never been and having to re-examine their identities. At their cores, both Saya and Indir are good, thoughtful people, and I’d gladly hand them both one half of my BFF charm.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Indir has her eye on a cute boy from the city, though she also has the attention of a Fire Warrior who returned with the would-be king, which is making her a bit uncomfortable but making ME wonder if we were going to get a love triangle. I…am not going to spill any beans here. Ultimately, romantic relationships are not the focus of this story, but do have a small and yet important role. We do get a fade-to-black love scene but it wasn’t anything to text your friends about.

Talky Talk: Dreamy

Huerta’s writing is dreamy and unhurried. The world she has built has deep roots in her Mesoamerican culture and it’s not one we’ve often seen in YA fantasy, so I loved how it felt fresh with its unique perspective. There are a lot of big set pieces, and, as readers, we bounce all over this world: the city of Alcanzeh where Indir and her Dreamer family live within the Temple of the Night, the small village in the jungle where Saya starts to chafe against her mother’s restrictions, and the Dream, the place where all spirits begin and all beings eventually return. Nature, story-telling, and community are such strong features in the story they are like characters themselves.

The trade-off to such rich world- and character-building is a fairly “simple” plot, so plot-driven readers may likely be frustrated with the pacing. I tend to enjoy both types of books heavily depending on my mood. In general, this easily kept my attention…though the many, many scenes when we’d go into the Dream began to tow my personal line of too much symbolism and imagery (ah deconstructing symbolism; my least favorite parts of my English classes!).

Bonus Factor: Feminism

This was a perfect one to read during this arbitrary month we women “get” where many men try to pretend they don’t hate our guts. Ahem. Anyway, appreciating women and all the amazing things they can do is a huge theme of this book, but not in a “rah-rah, we’re badasses!” way. Strength comes in all forms, from the wisdom of our elders, the labor of love that is childrearing, to being a sister in spirit or blood. You can feel the appreciation for the strong female role-models Huerta likely has in her life and wants to impart on you.

The thing that caught my eye was how casual and yet important human touch played a role in each character’s life. Saya grows up with a cold, unfeeling mother and when she finds a friend in her village, she is so unused to the simple pleasure of bumping shoulders or exchanging hugs to show affection, whereas Indir basks in the closeness she has with her sisters.

Factor: Series Starter?

This book isn’t listed as the first in a series, but the ending is definitely open for a sequel. I’m guessing the author wasn’t able to secure a two-book deal and they may be waiting to see how this book performs? The main storyline wraps up well enough that if there wasn’t a sequel I wouldn’t be too mad, because, for me, it more about the journey than the destination. But I recognize there are plenty of plot threads still dangling that could be tugged on.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Celay is an emotionally abusive asshole, passing off Saya’s abilities as her own and generally treating her daughter like a servant. I hope your hips ache all day, every day, Celay!

Relationship Status: Intense Fling

I think you may be too intense for us to have a long-term relationship, Book, but in the few months we were together you taught me a lot, and your earnestness was refreshing. Sleep well.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. The Lost Dreamer is available now.

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Man, this hurts to type this about a highly anticipated read. The premise made this an instant buy for me - I mean, Mesoamerican culture will always catch my eye. The premise was fresh and right up my alley but this was just boring.

I really wanted to love this one BUT sadly it didn’t work for me. It took a while for this one to build up and at times I found myself getting confused with our two main characters, Saya and Indir. Like others, I really enjoyed the last part of the book when things started to make a little more sense.

Thank you to Netgalley, Lizz Huerta, and the publisher for the eARC. I look forward to reading more by Huerta.

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I loved Indir and Saya's unique strengths, and the ways they fueled the story! While possessing amazing worldbuilding, this story was incredibly character-driven, which is something I love to see in high fantasy. And, on the note of world-building, this book had one of the most well-written and fascinating settings I have ever encountered in a YA fantasy novel. After finishing my first read-through, I am planning on listening to the audiobook version, which I was gifted by Libro.FM, so watch out for a future audiobook-specific review!

My Recommendation-
This book should be an absolute must-read for every fan of YA High Fantasy stories! I would especially recommend The Lost Dreamer to fans of the Raybearer Duology or the Lobizona series!

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I *loved* the first chapter and was drawn in immediately. Every subsequent chapter, however, I found increasingly boring. I never really connected with Saya and found myself dreading her chapters. Indir became boring the minute a love interest arrived. I have no doubt my opinion is in the minority and I fully expect this work to become an award winner. It was just not for me.

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Interesting and unique. This was well done for a debut and I enjoyed it for the most part. The overall story was strong, and I found myself impressed by Huerta’s imagination. I have read a ton of fantasy in my lifetime and while this is a “chosen one” story, it felt quite different than anything I have read before. There might have been a part here or there that felt familiar, but as a whole, this story felt unique which I always appreciate.

I first want to mention, since I read/review a ton LGBTQ+ books, that this is not one of them. One of my goals for 2022, was to read more books by WOC authors and it was no surprise to me that it is YA books that I keep going for to find good rep when it comes to both authors and characters. I think YA has set the standards that I hope we can see the others genres catching up to. Anyway, when I read the blurb, and saw the great cover, I knew I had to read this one.

I do want to make clear that this is more of slower paced book. It is the kind where while you are thrown right into the action –so to say- things move on the slower side and it takes a while to really find out what is going on. This book slowly throws a piece out here and there, and it is not until the end that you can finally put it all together to have a mostly done puzzle. And I say mostly done since it seems like there will be at least one more book. I was okay with this slower pieced together type of storytelling, but I don’t think it will be for everyone. If you want something fast paced, that gives you all the answers, and is filled with excitement, then this is not that book. There are exciting moments, but they are little ones sprinkled into two slower moving storylines.

There are two main storylines following two main female characters. One who is a Dreamer, whose family has always served the King, and the other who lives a very sheltered life, yet knows she can talk to spirits. When I say spirits, I don’t really mean ghosts, I more mean like nature sprits and other animal and insect type beings that live in this dream world. There is a light M/F romance with the main who is a dreamer, and there is a sex scene. However, it is so fade to black that I almost missed that they actually had sex. The other character is very sheltered so she is just at the stage of longing to not be alone. I actually wondered if she might end up being queer, in book 2, but I might have just been seeing subtext where there wasn’t any. There is violence in this book, but it more so happens around the character than too them, and because of that it doesn’t come across as explicit. While I don’t think this would work for young kids, I think the way the sex scene and the violence is handled that this would be appropriate for a wide range of ages.

As I mentioned before, I did feel the book was a little slow at times, but I didn’t mind it much. The book really wants you to know the two main characters before you understand what their journey really is. While not having all the information when I wanted it was tough, the book had some twists and turns that made everything worth it. If you are going to have a slower book you need to make the pay-off worth it and that was what Huerta was able to do. Now that I have more pieces to the puzzle, I can only imagine how the next book might be. I’m hopeful that the second book will really shift gears and we will get the excitement that this book was missing.

TLDR: A well written debut that was a unique read. I have never read anything exactly like this and I always appreciate that. This book is slower paced and the story really builds as you keep reading. If you are looking for a fast paced, exciting book, this is not for you, but it was still quite an enjoyable read for me. I liked watching the puzzle unfold and it was worth the wait. I’m excited for book 2, and I hope it has some really exciting moments.

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Included in The Young Folks roundup in March. Blurb: Inspired by a fantastical ancient Mesoamerican world, Lizz Huerta’s debut explores the world of seers and dreamers in a patriarchal society. Indir’s dreamer lineage is in jeopardy when a new king takes the throne. Saya discovers there may be more to her seer abilities than she knows and that her abusive mother lets on. This unique story and world will enthrall readers of YA fantasy as they cheer for Indir and Saya, two incredible characters whose ferocity and strength make for an exciting start to this duology.

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I read this book in one sitting. I kept wanting to know what would happen next! I enjoyed the world building--- I felt like I was a part of this ancient world. The story is told from a dual POV. At first I couldn't see much of a connection, but then everything ended up making sense. I especially enjoyed Saya's chapters . I found myself wanting to know more about Saya. I kept rooting for her.
The Lost Dreamer gave me a mix of Apocalypto and Avatar vibes. Apocalypto because of the setting and jungle descriptions. Avatar because of the different tribes and their powers. I especially loved the Ilkan, the jaguar women, and would love to know more about them. Overall, I'd say that Lizz Huerta's debut novel is a homerun. Two thumbs up from me!
CW: abusive mother, drugs, mild violence

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If you have Indigenous Mesoamerican ancestry, this book will be such a gift for you. And if you don’t, it will take you on an incredible, dreamlike journey you won’t soon forget!

The twist at the end has me incredibly anxious for a sequel. Because it is fantasy, it took a couple chapters to feel confident that I understood what was going on, but once I had that understanding I was hooked. You definitely want to check out the “the Lost Dreamer”!

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First off, the world building in this book is fascinating. The author transports you to that time when ancient civilizations prospered in certain parts of our world. From there she builds a magic system based on seeing the future in dreams and singing to heal and using fire to harm. The dual POV really contributes to the layers of the story and you get lost in figuring out what's going to happen to Indir and Saya. I was not, however, expecting the twist. When it came I was stunned. Stunned. I did not see it coming, but now looking back at the book, the clues and foreshadowing were there you just had to pay attention. I'm not sure if this is going to be a duology, but I need it to be. The ending was left open and I need to know what happens!

Overall, if you like books by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Isabel Ibañez, Romina Garber or Zoraida Córdova you'll like this book. It's that perfect blend of fantasy and mythology and intrigue.

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I've heard that this is supposed to be one of THE YA fantasies of the year, and I've seen so many glowing reviews for this, so I was a tad disappointed when it didn't live up to all the hype.

Let's start with the pros. For me, the two best things about this book were the world-building and reading from Saya's POV. The magic system Huerta has created here is rich and exciting, and you can really tell that a lot of thought was put into it. Saya's storyline was also (in my opinion) the better of the two, and I enjoyed reading about her story and her relationships with the people around her.

Unfortunately, the cons outweighed the pros for me in terms of enjoyment. Firstly - Indir's perspective. I think this could have been a really interesting addition to the story, but Indir's character felt as though she was more to provide exposition than anything, and when you have trouble enjoying 50% of the narration, a story can be hard to get through.

I won't provide any spoilers, but I will say that the way the story wrapped up felt very odd to me. Maybe I missed it, but there didn't seem to be any hints throughout the story of how it was going to wrap up, and I didn't really enjoy it. I'm hoping this is going to be a series, (even if I don't continue reading) because that ending felt like a lot still needed to happen.

Overall, maybe this is a case of "it's not you, it's me," but this one just didn't work out for me.

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For a YA novel, this was very unique and one-of-a-kind. The prose had a distinct, dreamlike quality, and I really enjoyed my time reading! I loved the magic, the dual perspectives, and the world.

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An interesting and beautiful world, but unfortunately a ton of information that isn’t really explained and many characters who don’t have very distinct personalities, making it hard to keep track of everyone.

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What an exciting, enthralling read! I wasn't sure what to think at first, but as the story kept moving forward I found I couldn't put it down. The book jumps between two perspectives, and I loved seeing them come together.

The world itself is steeped in magic and transports you immediately with vivid imagery and strong voices. I loved how detailed everything was, from the magic system to the different societies. The Dreamers had a strength that made me want to be one. Each community had something to offer and they all worked together to ensure harmony, of course until someone upsets the balance *side eyes*

Saya and Indir are such strong characters. The differences between their realities is stark, and I love how they complement each other in this way. As you get to know both of them, you're unravelling their separate tapestries and weaving them together. While there is romance in the plot, it doesn't detract from the main plotline, and I liked how it took a backseat!

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2.5 stars

This was not for me. I didn't connect with the characters, and the world building left a lot to be desired. I thought it was beautifully written, but I was bored. I just wanted to be done with it.

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If world-building is your favorite thing this book is for you. However, if you prefer your books to have a fast pace and lots of action- this isn't what you want. In The Lost Dreamer, the author spends a lot of time building this amazing and unique world that is vibrant and diverse. The magic system in this book is awesome, with lots of mythology and cultures all created by the author. The thing that annoyed me though was how slow the book was. There was minimal action as the author's priority was clearly on setting up this world and the main characters. Unfortunately, I think the slow beginning of the series might dissuade some readers from coming back for more, even though I imagine the second book will be much more action-focused as the world is now done being set up. Overall, I wish there had been a better mix of action and world-building, because so much of the book felt like a lead-up to what comes next.

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I enjoyed this book and it left me positively speechless towards the end! I wasn't expecting the ending that that we got and I'm chomping at the bit for the second book! I wrote a vague blog post about it to avoid spoilers and the link can be found here!

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