Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 4 stars
When I was a child, I went through a period of time where wondered, on and off, if I was adopted. I'm sure that it was brought on by some book I that read, or a movie that I watched, and I even think I asked my mom once. She laughed it off, assured me that wasn't the case, proceeded to show me baby photos that I'd seen countless times before. But not long after I caught her silently wiping at her eyes. She couldn't help it, I understood it even then, but I think that a few children sometimes wonder these things. I think it's borne out of the same curiosity which makes some of us also question if there are other worlds out there full of magic and possibilities that our “real” world does not offer—with far-off quests, vicious villains, brave heroes and wild monsters to conquer. Even after we grow up, we keep these fantasies. At least book lovers do.
I know that I keep to them.
In an Absent Dream brought all of that back. Not the adoption part. Though the memory was triggered, my parents have convinced me of the improbability of this. But rather the possibility of those alternate worlds. And who's to say that they're not true? No one knows all there is to know of the universe. And thank goodness for that, since it means that mysteries still exist.
Lundy is a child with a ferocious imagination who does not belong in the world onto which she is born. I don't think that she even realizes this until she comes across that magical tree and looks upon her first door with the words BE SURE written cleverly over it. But she goes through the door and steps into the Goblin Market, leaving behind the house with her first family and stepping into her true home with a new family of her choosing.
The rules are set for her from the beginning—as they oftentimes are in fairy tales of a sort—the warning is given for them to be followed, and a price must be paid when they are broken. And the price of those broken rules is that the child who had found her home is banished, the magic is removed and set as punishment, and she never gets to walk through the door again.
I've had my ups and downs with the books in this series, and since I do tend to lean and favor the darker tales that follow a plot like this one—which is why so far, my favorite in this set of books has been Down Among the Sticks and Bones—there was a sort of bleak loveliness to this installment. Call me a glutton for dreariness in stories, and I'll be guilty as charged.
It didn't grasp me at first, but the closer I got to the ending, the more I appreciated that bleakness and therefore the good in the novel. Where at first I found annoyance in the fact that the world outside the Goblin Market barely held description, I realized it was to better drive home the point that the Goblin Market was really all that mattered to Lundy and therefore deserved attention. Where I wished more interaction would have occurred between Lundy and her family outside the Goblin Market, more did I enjoy it when it did happen in the form of Diana and her desperation to have the love of her sister. And where I wished that we would've witnessed the actual action between Lundy and the moments with the battle and conquest of the Wasp King or the Bone Wraiths, the more I appreciated the growth, rather, that the character had after these events.
Part of me still wants for the things that I feel I was cheated out of, but we come to the fair value of the story and sometimes it gives before taking again. There's anguish and loss and happiness to be found, and I think that Lundy got just what she wanted in the end. However, it brings home once more something that the Archivist attempted to instill in Lundy more than once (and us, as the attentive reader): be sure, before you ask, or request, or want for something, because there is always a price to pay. Lundy got just what she asked for, but it came at a stark cost.