If Souls Can Sleep (The Soul Sleep Cycle - Book 1) by David Michael Williams

Publisher - One Million Words

Published - 30th January

Price - £2.24 ebook

I thank the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

I want to thank the publisher for this advance copy in eschange for a free and

First, he lost his daughter. His mind may be next.

After years of being haunted by the day his little girl drowned. Vincent faces a new nightmare – one that reaches into the real world and beyond the grave.

If Souls Can Sleep introduces a hidden world where gifted individuals possess the power to invade the dreams of others. Two rival factions have transformed the dreamscape into a warzone where all reality is relative and even the dead can’t rest in peace.

Sleep is I think we can all agree both precious and weird. We all experience mysterious time loss when we shut out eyes; we are essentially not here and then suddenly back a few hours later. On top of that we have the mystery of dreams – those odd narratives that can appear to make perfect sense until we wake up and some always give a nagging sense as to whether are we still asleep now?  In this new fantasy thriller David Michel Williams uses sleep and dreams to create an engaging thriller that is not uncomfortable with wrong-footing a reader’s expectations.

The story starts with Vincent Cruz a troubled grieving parent now nearly divorced, working as a janitor and sharing a flat with his stoner friend Jerry. He comes across as a man who has given up on life but then Vincent begins to fall asleep often without warning and wakes up in a seemingly medieval tavern as Valenthor a drunk grieving parent who is required by an elf for what looks to be a mission that has major consequences for the world! While that is going on we also meet Milton running through the snow from his enemies; his only friend a mysterious cynical traveller known as DJ who seems to know a lot more about Milton’s past than even Milton does. As Vincent begins to investigate why he keep returning in his dreams to the life of Valenthor with the help of Leah Chedid a sleep disorder specialist there seems to be a lot more going on than a simple case of narcolepsy.

I really must commend this book because when I first read it I thought I was about to read a slightly twee portal fantasy as Valenthor uses ALL thee tropes from taverns, Knights called Angus, prison brawls and an unhealthy stack of Forsooths and Verilys! But slowly we start to see Valenthor’s life is chiming with Vincent’s who gains increasing awareness of himself in this dream-world. It becomes apparent that it’s not quite a parallel world but more of a stranger creation that clearly has a purpose for Vincent lined up but it’s not quite clear as to what purpose that will be for. It was also quite amusing when Vincent and Jerry use a trusty online source known as The Master of Fantasy to work out what the likely plot points will be in the dream as it seems to so closely follow epic fantasy plot points! Obviously, I will would never wish for such a resource for a book reviewer (polishes halo).

What I think pushes the book into what became a very engrossing read was the addition of two other features that broaden out the story. The strange night time encounters between Milton and a young man calling himself DJ are a mix of sinister cat and mouse conversations balanced with some interesting action set pieces. A shadowy group obsessed with Norse mythology are also stalking Milton and they also seem to be able to start to enter Vincent’s dreams; gradually we see the lines between the groups converge and I was quite impressed how the plot was constructed. It is a really  well paced tale with the various clues and revelations slowly unveiled and this is supported by some very nice characterisation from larger cast from the just plain untrusty DJ to the loveable stoner friend Jerry and I was very pleased to see a clever competent professional female lead in the character of Leah who does the harder work trying to work out what is going on in Vincent’s head.

I only had two misgivings. Understandably the story revolves around the character of Vincent who having lost his young daughter is clearly troubled, but he more often comes across a sulky teenager rather than tortured soul. Annoyingly he also seems to be irresistible to women (human and otherwise) but as the novel develops we do see characters start to pull him up on his rather selfish behaviour it’s just something I’d had preferred to see happen earlier and more often! He tends to be more a character to whom the adventure happens to rather than often leads the narrative; Leah is the much more interesting character! My other niggle is that as it’s a trilogy many plot points are raised that simply vanish as we reach the satisfactory conclusion.  I no doubt these will reappear in future volumes but it felt at times slightly rushed.

But despite these two issues I was pleasantly surprised how quickly I became invested in the story and was often surprised in the directions it took. Williams was not afraid to have a slightly more sober and quieter character-based conclusion than simply an epic battle as seemed initially promised. Overall it was a refreshing read that I think if you’re looking for a fast-paced supernatural thriller that doesn’t take the obvious route then I think this would be well worth a look!