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The Last Dreamwalker - Review

*I received the physical copy for the B2 Weird Bookclub tour via Forge Books. All reviews are my own.*

Have you ever seen the movie The Skeleton Key? It's a "Southern Gothic" horror film starring Kate Hudson and others. The narrative follows a New Orleans hospice nurse who begins a job at a plantation home and becomes entangled in a supernatural mystery involving the house, its former inhabitants, and Hoodoo rituals and spells that took place there. I won't say Rita Woods's The Last Dreamwalker was the same as this 2005 thriller (because it wasn't), but I will say that the story danced on the vibe line that will have you wishing you didn't believe.

"After her mother’s unexpected death, Layla Hurley must accept that their relationship was always distant and fraught. In the wake of her passing, Layla reconnects with the maternal side of her family—aunts she hasn’t been allowed to visit or speak to for years, and stories she’s never heard. She travels to South Carolina in search of closure, but discovers much more than she bargained for. While her mother harbored dark and disturbing secrets, there is also talk of her inheritance: a piece of land on the Gullah-Geechee island off the shore is now her own.
But Layla inherits more than land. A long-buried mysterious power, dropped through generations of her Gullah ancestors, awakens. Like many women before her, Layla is a dreamwalker. She can inhabit and manipulate the dreams of others. As she dives into dark memories of her mother and the history of the island, she’s desperate to hold onto what’s real and untangle it from the looming dread that someone else, someone cloaked in malice, inhabits these dreams too.
No gift is without its consequences, and Layla finds herself thrust in the middle of a nightmare against an enemy that could snatch away her family and her life as she knows it."

Believe in what you say? Well, apparently, Layla Hurley is trying to figure that out too. We follow the story of Layla and her accidental quest to find out what is plaguing her thoughts when she sleeps at night. Between the family secrets, a random plantation island, and a mysterious generational power held between the clan, Layla must untangle what is real or face the unknown consequences.

This book was frustrating. Not because the story was terrible. It was a good one! It's because it involved so much misunderstanding, secrets, and pride. I don't know what it's like with other families, but when black families have secrets, THEY HAVE SECRETS. There were so many unanswered questions in this book. But I guess that was the point. When you have deep-rooted family issues that no one wants to share, anybody would feel lost and frustrated trying to find the truth of information. I love that Woods wrote this story in this way. Sometimes trying to get to the bottom of issues isn't as black and white as entertainment media makes it out to be. Sometimes you get pieces of the puzzle, and you must determine what is what with the picture you have.

I wanted to know all the juicy details between Layla's mother and her crazy cousin. I wanted to know what happened to the past women and what they did with their dream-walking gifts. I wanted to know everything! But in this journey, we weren't meant to know the entire tale, just the glimpses of scattered emotions and faded memories.

I have questions about plenty of scenarios throughout the story, but the ending was the biggest bother for me. The suspense was high, but Woods could've stretched it out more. The conclusion wasn't anticlimactic, but I saw the direction of it going elsewhere. It didn't quite tie up loose ends, but it did give off an air of finality.

Overall I rated the book 4-stars. It gives off spooky vibes, but it won't cause nightmares. Be prepared for indolence and a looooot of miscommunication. The Last Dreamwalker was captivating, and the mystery of it all kept me engaged.

The Last Dreamwalker is available now.

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