Dreams of Fire by Nathaniel Wayne
Reviewed by Minna Nizam
Dreams of Fire by Nathaniel Wayne, who goes by Council of Geeks on YouTube, started her career reviewing television shows and various other forms of media, including criticizing author J.K. Rowling for her stance on trans issues. This past year, she undertook the difficult task of writing a fantasy novel and did so in a brilliant way.
Dreams of Fire is a great example of how the fantasy genre can evolve into more than just an otherworldly concept of mythical monsters. Farris, the protagonist, is an elemental who uses fire magic. He is cursed with this ability and often struggles with the ramifications throughout the story. Wayne expertly captures the protagonist’s life, living on the fringes of society. Farris is a loner and is forced to live his life as such out of fear that he will be captured by the Science Guild.
However, the story takes a drastic turn once his environment is in a forest setting. The mythical beasts, done in an electro-punk style, threaten Farris’ very existence. The reason for this is because, within this world, humanity is at war with the Fae. The elementals are caught in the middle of this. Farris’s story isn’t a grandiose hero’s journey or anything of that sort. His goal is survival. He isn’t destined for greatness or a chosen one selected to defeat a great evil. His story is very simplistic. A young boy in search of a way to escape disaster in order to live a better life. Wayne shines in capturing the protagonist’s inner thoughts and feelings. Farris isn’t interested in joining the battle; he’s caught in the chaos.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Dreams of Fire is that there is no villain within this story. Every character has their own motivations. Farris wants to escape into a life of peace. Professor Raines operates her daily life as a member of the Science Guild. The plot is multifaceted and not focused on a good vs evil dynamic, which is a breath of fresh air. Instead, the focus lies on world-building! The book’s pictures showcase the vivid colors of the universe these characters reside in. The forest that Farris escapes into is captured beautifully in the art—at night, the trees look haunting mixed with hues of blue. In the morning, the forage is expressed in shades of green. My favorite image is of Farris crouched within the broken earth of the forest. The art reflects the pain and torture the main character experiences every time he is forced to use his fire. Other reviews of Wayne’s fantastic book don’t touch on this. If anyone were to buy this self-published novel (which is available on Amazon), the reader should expect to see these lovely art pieces accompanying every couple of pages within the novel. It’s a great addition to the book that most fantasy novels lack.
Another amazing aspect of Dreams of Fire is the multi-perspective aspect of the story. Yes, the protagonist is Farris, but the story delves into the viewpoints of characters like Garion and Professor Raines. Garion is half-fey and works as a Marshall. He is first introduced in response to Farris’ escape into the woods. The Marshall is tasked as a would-be capturer of Farris. It brings a new element to the story—as a reader, you feel for the protagonist as he escapes from Garion. The task is formidable, and the characters clashing reads much like an epic battle one would expect from a well-written anime arc.
Professor Raines brings the perspective of the Science Guild. This is the feared organization Farris tries to escape from. From Raines’ point of view, the guild is, at its best, focused on scientific endeavors in understanding elementals. This part of the story is interesting and really showcases Wayne’s love for sci-fi, as evident on their YouTube channel, Council of Geeks. The entrance scene with Professor Raines, and its introduction to the Science Guild, read almost similar to the lab scenes in anime like Evangelion. This leads to the climax of the story, where Garion, Farris, and Poena, another elemental with lightning power, all clash near the end.
Overall, Dreams of Fire is a great addition to the fantasy genre, with a heavy emphasis on science fiction rather than a typical Medieval Fantasy setting with mythological beasts. This is a type of story that the reviewer is not too familiar with, which makes the book a breath of fresh air in a genre that is riddled with the same cliches over and over again.