In the beautifully written prologue to In the Dark of Dreams, a young human girl meets a mer-boy on the beach near her family home. The moment is brief and the two are torn away from each other, but they never forget each other and see each other in dreams for many years afterward.
Fast-forward to the present: Jenny (the girl) and Perrin (the boy) have both grown to adulthood and have picked up their share of physical and emotional scars along the way. Jenny travels the world hoping to find merpeople again, while Perrin has been banished from the sea and is trying to live as a human man. Their lives are changed when they begin to have the dreams again — just in time to face a host of dangers ranging from mercenaries and thugs to an ancient, eldritch being who threatens all life on Earth. Marjorie M. Liu does a great job with the latter in particular, making the creature frightening but not “evil” and hinting at an epic history. As Jenny and Perrin deal with these problems, they become reacquainted with each other and develop a more grown-up love.
At about the halfway point, I found myself having trouble connecting with the story. When I thought about it, I realized the problem was that Liu had left Perrin’s past too mysterious. There are hints of crimes committed, and before I could “invest” in him as a character, I wanted more details so I could be sure he wasn’t a jerk and wouldn’t be abusive toward Jenny. I finally decided that Liu was “vouching” for him by making him the hero in the first place and was able to get past this issue. Most of my questions are eventually answered. Even after finishing the book, though, I still want to know more about what happened with Rik and Surinia. I suspect those details will come out in a later book focusing on Rik.
In the Dark of Dreams is an intense paranormal romance filled with deep love and deep sorrow. There’s plenty of action, too, and a cast of interesting characters. Eddie and the dog are particularly lovable. The main “villain” (in quotation marks because it’s really more a force of nature than a “bad guy” per se) is original, and the means of defusing the threat is emotionally compelling and well-thought-out.
There’s much less time spent underwater than the cover blurb might suggest. The characters spend most of the book on boats or on islands, and In the Dark of Dreams could be just the right escapist read when it’s cold and drizzly out. So long, winter; hello palm trees and beaches! Watch out for mercenaries…