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The Last Dream Keeper
An Echo Park Coven Novel
by Amber Benson
ACE Books; $15; 307pp
Published: January 2016

This is book two of Ms. Benson’s series with a coven of five witches based in Echo Park, an old eccentric neighborhood of Los Angeles.  Click here for a review of book one.

The Flood is Coming! An overwhelming evil...organization? (Not clear on this) intent on wiping out all the witches of the world and swamping the planet in evil.  The Flood’s intentions, after eradicating the evil of the witches is not real clear. They have been decimating covens everywhere. When they focus on Echo Park—they do their best to destroy, befuddle, and create chaos and terror amongst the Echo Park ladies and their actions are pretty horrific.

In the midst of this, Lizabeth, the youngest member and the Dream Walker that the coven is trying to protect walks the Dreamlands and meets a mysterious figure Temistocles and suddenly finds her voice. She has been mute from trauma for many years. When she returns from this visit to the Dreamlands—she has an old dream journal that will prove vital in the upcoming struggle.  Just in time, because of the escalation of violence, the coven must split up—coven member Arrabelle must go up to the Pacific Northwest to track down an old friend and Lyse (the coven master), along with Lizabeth, her brother Weir and coven member Daniela must go to…Rome. The witch Devandra must stay in Echo Park to protect her two daughters and deal with the tragedy that has befallen her family in an attack by members of The Flood.

And for me at this point, the story pacing became erratic, zigging and zagging like a skittish horse that’s trapped in a too-small corral. I also began to think I was reading a Steven Berry or Dan Brown novel.  The coven members have come to Rome to release the spirits of previous witches who have been trapped in vials and hidden deep in a labyrinth of catacombs beneath the Villa Nomentana—the international home of the witches high council. No one knew the women’s spirits had been ensorcelled there. Right beneath their international headquarters, which I take it has been there a very, very long time. How did this escape the council’s notice?

Lyse and Lizabeth, et al have to release all of them to help stem the tide of The Flood.

Before that happens, Lyse is attacked and captured by a particularly nasty, nasty member of The Flood. Daniela and Lizabeth are able to free the trapped spirits and escape the chaos in the catacombs (created by an attack on them) so they can rush off to a Red Pillar which is in Tbilisi, Georgia to unleash something else powerful to help stop The Flood before the Blood Moon is full. This adds to the international flavor of course, but really feels tacked on.  

Lyse gets taken to the ultimate heart of darkness that is The Flood’s experiments on women who might be Dream Walkers. It appears they want to know what makes women Dream Walkers, where their power comes from so they can do who-knows-what with that knowledge.  The Flood’s experiments are so horrible and disgusting and heinous…I’m running out of words. It just made me reel.

Arrabelle rejoins Lyse accompanied by with her friends from the Northwest and they do what they can to escape the nightmare headquarters of The Flood and help those captured and tortured.

Obviously there is more.  Granted this is just a second book and you don’t want to reveal all so the reader will be anxious for the next novel—but as I said—the story was all over the place and I got dragged along by the ever-changing plot and escalating horrors—but I’m really not too clear on why The Flood thinks the witches and the abilities of the Dream Walkers are an abomination-other than in a generic, Biblical way. And why now? I have no idea who established The Flood and who is running it. All I know is The Flood has it out for witches and their Dream Walkers and that they are EVIL.

We suddenly take a globe-hopping trip leaving behind the wonderful eccentric neighborhood Benson gave us in the first novel---but I am not sure why because we never meet any international members of the witches covens. It is a nice place setting and it’s cool that their headquarters are in Rome—but there’s no one there to help them. Is the Villa completely empty of witches?  Also, are there no members of North American covens they can contact for help? No other covens anywhere? Benson did indicate that there is a rotten apple in the core of the witches’ high council. And though the reader knows  a lot of covens have been destroyed…this information was presented as tragic news but nothing worth acting on or looking into—until it hits home in Echo Park.

For me, the bottom line is this: If the coven of witches in Echo Park is the last of their kind---why are they just finding this out now? Would the deaths of other coven members not make the news? Would they not have an active on-going interest in the well-being of their fellow witches? Being ignorant/blind to their fate is a weak excuse.  Really? Sounds very short-sighted and not, well, believable.  For me as a reader—when there are more questions than answers, I lose interest. It doesn’t make me more curious it just makes me frustrated which made this novel a less-than satisfying read.  ~~ Sue Martin

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