The Nightmare Affair
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.”
On the whole, I have no problem with “teen goes to magic school” novels. Admittedly, there are lots of them out there since the Harry Potter phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all pale copies or unoriginal in and of themselves. They’re usually quick, light reads that enliven an afternoon or two. And The Nightmare Affair definitely falls into that category: it’s a fast read with some mystery and some magic, which is pretty much what you’d expect from such a novel.
In a way, that’s the problem: this novel feels far too much like others in the genre. It has its unique elements—my favorite being the fact that objects which are around magic for too long begin to develop personalities—but on the whole, it doesn’t break enough new ground. There is the search for the magical artifact, the obligatory love triangle, a secret society, and the heroine being kept in the dark about what’s really going on.
Aside from the tone and general plot, though, I found this a reasonably good teen novel. Making Dusty a form of succubus is an interesting choice, although linking her to a guy in order to be able to fully access her powers made me roll my eyes a little. The aforementioned “enchanted objects” contributed to fun little vignettes when they showed up. The murders themselves were not too graphic, but they had just enough detail to them to bring a genuine chill upon reading them. I would have liked more detail on the school itself, but the plot focused more on the mystery than on the school in which it takes place. There are plenty of other magical races mentioned, which will probably play into future novels.
There was one aspect in particular that I found intriguing and that I wish had been explored more. There’s a spell called “The Will” which essentially keeps magic users from harming each other. It’s not something that I’ve seen in other novels, and it’s believable that something like it would exist. It also hearkens uncomfortably to our own real-world fears of having our lives interfered with by the “powers that be”.
I’m finding that I don’t have a lot to say about this particular book. It’s a pleasant read, with some nice touches, but it didn’t really stand out from the crowd. This could be a good “gateway” book to teen fantasy for those trying to get a young person into the genre. The Nightmare Affair hits all the major points common to the type, and in that respect, it does the job it came to do.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on March 8, 2013.