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Screamcatcher: Web World

by Christy J. Breedlove

Rating: ****

Seventeen-year-old Jorlene (“Jory”) Pike is experiencing horrendous nightmares following the death of her parents in a car accident. When she discovers an old dreamcatcher in her grandfather’s Native American gift shop, she decides to see if it will help.

However, little does she realize that the dreamcatcher’s web is too heavy with all the horror it has caught through the ages, and instead of providing comfort, it sucks Jory and friends, Darcy, Choice, and Lander into a hellish world of ancient night terrors…

Screamcatcher: Web World certainly has a place in the YA market, but, as a young adult no longer, I found it a solid, entertaining, and gruesome horror fantasy that, although uses a fairly traditional structure to unfold the action, also brings some unusual elements into play which elevate the novel and will certainly provide longevity and interest to the Screamcatcher series.

Breedlove’s writing is fast-paced, fluid, and deceptively easy to read. Sentences are short and the reader is taken pretty much straight into the action.

Screamcatcher: Web World does exactly what it promises and once inside Jory’s grandfather’s bric-a-brac shop with the antediluvian dreamcatcher high up on the wall, it is just a matter of seeing what Breedlove does with it and where he takes us.

It's not disappointing, the premise of the web world is simple, which is good, too many novels of this type become over-engineered and confusing, but Breedlove has wisely left enough possibilities and threads (pardon the pun) to expand or rein in the narrative as he wishes.

Jory and her friends fit the group of stereotypical teenagers in the genre, a leader, a dark horse, a whinger, and an unpredictable liability who may or may not be on the right side.

In the beginning, the main characters are as evolved as they need to be as the focus is, mainly, on the deadly world the teenagers find themselves in. But as the four progress through the web, their experiences mature them believably and rub off a few corners. The reader is given enough context on each to hold interest without detouring from the main narrative and there are a few surprises.

As the friends wake up to the aftermath of the dreamcatcher’s implosion, it’s an addictive read, cleverly thought-out, and credible. There are layers of imaginative intricacy as Jory and co., travel through the horrors that the web serves up in order to reach the center. Some of the manifestations they battle are truly unedifying and downright awful, while others are almost amusing in their otherworldly irony.

Once the story progresses, it segues from horror to fantasy to a race for survival in an apocalyptic landscape. Indeed, Breedlove takes the variable climate and dramatic geography of Badlands National Park in South Dakota and exaggerates its volatility and ruggedness through the twisted universe of the dreamcatcher, providing the perfect backdrop for the majority of the action.

This also ensures that the narrative has a visual, filmic quality that is complemented by the creatures and phenomena that the four encounter. All are relatively uncomplicated to imagine, rendering them relatable and, consequently, all the more horrid.

Because Screamcatcher: Web World is written with such a confident, breezy pace with concentration focused on the four friends reaching the center of the web, it’s easy to overlook the wealth of detail and knowledge of Native American folklore and belief. Jory’s heritage provides the roots and eventual framework for the story and it’s deceptively well-explored.

There are a few convenient moments and, in parts, Jory seems a touch detached, but overall Screamcatcher: Web World is a solidly enjoyable paranormal fright-fest that is skillfully plotted and smartly written.

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