April 18, 2017
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Xander Miyamoto should be feeling great. It's the beginning of summer vacation, his mother has returned from a long absence, and he has learned that he is a warrior with special powers. Xander never would have guessed that the old Japanese folktale about Momotaro, the hero who sprang from a peach pit, was real, much less part of his own heritage.
But instead of reveling in his recent victory against the oni, monsters bent on creating chaos, Xander is feeling resentful. What took his mother so long to come back? Why does his father insist on ruining the summer with study and training? And why is Xander plagued by nightmares every night? Maybe this whole Momotaro thing is overrated.
Xander's grandmother gives him a special baku charm to use to chase his nightmares away. He just has to be careful not to rely on it too much. If he does, the baku will not only take his dreams, but those of everyone in the house, forever. Without dreams, there is no hope, no motivation, no imagination, no Momotaro. And then it would be far too easy for Ozuno, king of the oni, to wreak havoc. . . .
On his second quest, Xander explores new surreal landscapes, encounters more strange and dangerous creatures, and faces even higher stakes as he learns whether or not he has what it takes to be Momotaro.
Margaret Dilloway's second Middle Grade novel, after last year's Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters is the second book in the Momotaro series. Xander knows about his special powers, about the threat of the oni, and has his mother back. Add in that it's summer break and everything should be fantastic for the twelve-year-old, right?
Not so much. His mother was gone for most of his life and no one seems angry with her for her absence - no one but Xander. The threat of the oni is ever-present, his father insists on grueling training and, to top it all of, Xander's having nightmares.
When his grandmother gives him a charm to help, it seems like the perfect solution. Until Xander doesn't heed her warnings and things go very, very wrong. Now it's up to him to fix things and save everyone.
I really loved how Xander and the Dream Thief used Japanese folklore and ancient stories to create the magical world and beings that Xander encounters. Though they were from different tales, author Margaret Dilloway worked them all together very well. Each played a part in Xander's tale but also helped connect the elements of his quest and create a full, rich journey.
There are times that wiser characters give Xander bits of sage advice but how he reacts to them really made him feel his age. Yet, if/when those pieces of advice made sense to him or he realized their validity, he was willing to embrace them. His initial reaction paired with the later one made things feel more real. (And his needing to get to a place where he could accept the words and fully grasp them, gave them that much more weight.)
You can read Xander and the Dream Thief without first reading Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (I did) because there is enough recap of what happened in that book to catch you up and to follow the new story. I would suggest reading the first book, though. You will have a better understanding of the characters, their relationships and what they experienced. Plus, if this book is anything to go by, it will be a fun, enjoyable read.
Xander and the Dream Thief is out today so go get yourself a copy!
thank you to the publisher for my copy to review