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Review: The Place Beyond Her Dreams by Oby Aligwekwe

The Place Beyond Her Dreams by Oby Aligwekwe
Genre: Fantasy
Age category: Young Adult
Release Date: March 16, 2021

Review
This Netgalley review has been long delayed, the book falling into my queue right around the time I had to unexpectedly pull back on UFM stuff. But reading it during that time brought some much-needed relaxation to the chaos, and I’m happy to be able to finally come back and give it a proper review.

The Place Beyond Her Dreams is the first young adult novel for established author Oby Aligwekwe, whose other books include Nfudu and Hazel House.

At the core of the book is the relationship between the main character Ona and a young man named Okem who comes to live with her family in the first chapter. (In fact, in the very first sentence, which really drew me into the story wondering who he was and why his arrival was so important.) The two grow into adulthood together, where they struggle more and more with their differences in social status. Early in the story, Ona’s family suffers a tragic loss, and this loss is what prompts Ona to discover something amazing: that she can mentally connect to another world called Luenah.

Luenah is a beautiful, ideal city, free from strife, and I could sympathize with Ona’s desire to escape to there as often and as long as she could. But Ona accepts that she still has responsibilities on Earth as well. Interestingly enough, her ease or difficulty in entering Luenah is often connected to what’s happening in her life. If I had any criticism, it would be that Ona is not always the most active of protagonists. A lot of events, especially in the middle of the book, happen to her, forcing a reaction, rather than happening because of her actions. But she remained sympathetic throughout. The antagonist(s)–leaving this vague to keep it free of spoilers–who manipulate her and try to keep her from acting are very good at what they do.

There a certain mysterious power that Ona and other citizens of Luenah seem to have–the ability to sense things that are true even when there’s not much concrete evidence to go on. I would have loved to see this ability expanded on a little bit. Emphasis on “little.” Part of what makes the book work is that it knows when to hold back. Fans of books like Lord of the Rings who want to see every little thing expanded upon and loaded up with lore might find the worldbuilding in The Place Beyond Her Dreams minimalistic. But the setting’s magical and mysterious charm, without diving too hard into each minute detail, is part of what pulled me into it. I was able to simply take parts of the description at face value and accept the confidence of the author that this is simply the way this world works.

Overall, the book was a pleasant read that I’m happy to have found.

Rating: 4 out of 5

You can find The Place Beyond Her Dreams on Goodreads

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