Skyler White

In Dreams Begin

Brought to you by OBS staff member Maja M

Fantasy fiction remains one of the most popular contemporary genres. Our frantic way of life, world’s problems and conflicts all encourage us to seek escapes into other worlds, dreams, intense emotions and thoughts we are unable to experience in our lives. This is why fantasy novels get easily published and are widely read across the globe.

Skyler White is another author who chose to write in a similar vein, following the recent trends of popular vampire and gothic fiction, as well as a hybrid genre called ‘dark fantasy.’ Author of two novels, ‘and Falling, Fly’ (March, 2010) and ‘In Dreams Begin’ (November, 2010), Skyler lives and works in Texas, USA. Both of her novels have a common strand: they are mostly situated in Ireland, which served as an inspiration for Skyler with its rich and turbulent history and complex mythology.

Her first novel dealt with a female vampire bored with life, yearning for love and an Irish neuroscientist tormented by visions. Her second novel, ‘In Dreams Begin’ focuses on one of the greatest poets in literary history, William Butler Yeats.

First of all, this is not a historical novel. White might have used real names, places and certain events, but the novel does not engage with Yeats’ time in a plausible and compelling way; the narration, details and events are written in a very modern style: the dialogues are also modern and rarely engage with typical Irish vocabulary of that period, but rather remain very modern American, with occasional items indicating Irish expressions, which seem awkwardly placed considering the rest is American English. This may appeal to a wide variety of readers because it is more linguistically accessible but it certainly does not add to the veracity of the whole plot.

It is clear that White did research but did not delve deeper into it to ensure historical accuracy and a level of realism. Thus, we must consider this work as a fantasy fiction, using Irish history and Yeats’ life as mere skeletons on which this story is built on. The plot deals with time travel and brings the modern reader back in time. Laura, a modern business woman who is about to get married, is summoned back in time into the body of Maud Gonne, an Irish feminist revolutionary with whom William Butler Yeats falls in love. The plot thickens as the medium who summoned Laura also falls in love with her and Yeats becomes aware that Maud is possessed by a modern woman’s spirit. The real Maud and Laura battle inside one body for dominance as Ida and Yeats try to summon Laura back to Maud’s body.

Through Laura as the narrator, White tries to give us a modern perspective on the events that occur. Sex and sensuality play an important part in this fiction, for all the characters seem motivated by their desire and fall in love quickly and without much explanation or motivation. White seems aware of certain linguistic formulas and repeats words and phrases to portray these powerful emotions, which may work for less demanding readers but those who expect novelty and variation might be disappointed. The basic concept of time travel is not successfully portrayed because of the lack of realistic and historically detailed information on that period, and the reader may have the feeling that something is lacking. This book is ambitious in its engagement with emotions and desire, sensuality and transgressive nature of eroticism, but fails to evoke the Irishness on which it insists while dealing with important figures like Yeats and Maud Gonne.

All in all, I do not recommend ‘In Dream Begin’ to more demanding readers. This is an easy read for readers who enjoy a light romance time-travel fantasy and do not dwell on details or the veracity of certain historical details. It is a work of fantasy which can relax and entertain, but does not engage with any deeper topics not brings originality to the popular genre of dark fiction.