The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien Review

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Title: The Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien (Twitter)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 432
Source: Publisher

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity.

But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.
I'm all about a good science fiction novel. There's something about an author being able to spin new and foreign worlds into a concept that's believable and almost tangible that makes the genre utterly appealing. So, naturally, The Vault of Dreamers was right up my alley. Offering a pretty original concept - one that really appealed to me, at that - I was thrilled to pick this one up, namely because it's by Caragh M. O'Brien, author of the popular Birthmarked series. Tense, original and gripping, it's the type of book that will captivate you to the very end, all the while making you question your sanity, as well.

I have to admit that I'm a little bit torn on my overall opinion of The Vault of Dreamers in the end though. It must be said that the plot really is incredibly original. The concept of dream seeding and mining is a unique one, but I almost felt as though the novel had too many elements going at once, so a bit of the focus was lost along the way. By adding in the element of a reality show, I felt a twinge of The Hunger Games, but it also didn't really feel like a fully-fleshed out concept. I had a lot of questions as the sci-fi elements developed as to how specific scenes didn't appear on the reality show, how viewers simply bought the Forge School vision and why, exactly, this school was the only place to send future students. Furthermore, we're presented with what seems like a bit of a destitute future world outside of the school, but it's hardly explored, so the novel feels very closed off and isolated.

Rosie, our main character, however, is what managed to keep me sold on The Vault of Dreamers throughout. She was feisty, hot-headed and stubborn, but she also had a fierce sense of devotion to her family at home and a rock-solid sense of self that really resonated. While there were elements of progression throughout the novel that threw me a little bit - talking to voices, etc. - Rosie, herself, never wavered, and I could really appreciate the fact that we had a strong, resilient protagonist. There is an element of romance to this novel that threw me a bit though because I'm not sure I ever really got to know our love interest, Linus. We get to see a fast-paced romance in a disordered plot with a female MC that heavily overshadows our love interest, and it just fell a bit flat.

In the end, I feel incredibly torn on how to actually rate The Vault of Dreamers. In terms of setting up a new series with a great cliffhanger, it did a great job reeling me in at the end, but it also left a lot open to assumptions and interpretations, as well. There's something to be said for a lack of info-dumping, but this was one of those novels that I feel needed a bit more of a streamlined focus to succeed. And, unfortunately, it didn't have that. In the end, I give it a 3 out of 5, and I hope to see more of it from future books. I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy science-fiction and dystopian novels.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Really great review Mel, overall it sounds like it was a great concept but some of it was delivered in a flat, haphazard way. Which is a shame, because I REALLY love the sound of this book. At least there were some great elements, like the fiesty protagonist eh? Awesome review Mel!

  2. I really like the concept of this book but I am bummed that it lacked focus and details. I think I will wait until Book 2 comes out before starting this series. Great review!

  3. I'm kind of sad that this was only a three for you (not that a three is bad at all but I was hoping for more, you know?). Missed this one at BEA and decided that was a sign...I'll probably stick with that belief.

  4. I've been struggling a lot lately with novels that lack a streamlined focus--LOVE that phrase, by the way!--so I don't think this is quite for me. I'll keep an eye out to see if the series drastically improves of now I'm likely going to skip this. Thanks for such an honest review, Melissa! :)

  5. I agree with some of your concerns. I gave it a four. I did wish I knew more about the world outside of the school, and I also didn't quite believe that this dream mining was such a horrible thing, at least not to the extent that Rosie did. I loved Linus, though. I thought his character was original, and I liked the budding romance. I'm excited to see where the series goes.

  6. Fantastic review Melissa! I have seen other reviews with very similar concerns when it comes to the lack of development when it comes to world building and the romance, so I'm gonna keep this one in the "maybe" shelf for now!

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