Book Review: The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O’Brien

The Vault of Dreamers is one weird book. It will suck you in and not let you out of its world until you finish reading it, and even since then I have kept thinking about it for days. Now, I know that when something is called “a psychological thrilling novel” (inside front cover), some weirdness should be expected. But oh boy, there’s a lot of it in this. The funny thing is, the story makes a lot of sense at the same time. The weirdness factor comes from not being able to tell what is real and what cannot possibly be real, yet supposedly is.

The story premise hooked me instantly. The setting is a prestigious art school the records its students (with their permission) 12 hours a day, and requires they take a sleeping pill for the remaining 12 hours. Every student is aware of all this, so they willingly participate. Admittance to the school is based on the students’ art, but remaining there is based solely on their popularity on the reality TV show created from the 12 recorded hours of their lives. Enter Rosie Sinclair, first-year film student who just slides in at the last space to remain at the school. When she skips her sleeping pill one night, she begins to uncover a secondary function of the school, one much more ominous than art. As she discovers more about the history of the school and its staff, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine what is really happening, so much so that I am still not entirely sure what happened in the last chapter.

While the premise and general story idea of the book was very interesting, the action and events were less so. There were times when entire paragraphs did not make sense to me, or contradicted something that had been said a few pages earlier, and I am unsure whether that was intentional or not. If so, it is an intriguing plot device that was not fully developed. If it was not intentional, then it should have been better edited. I hope there will be a sequel to The Vault of Dreamers, not so much because I am anxious for more of the story and want to know how that world turns out, but because I want to be sure of what the ending of this book was. By the end of the book, I could not tell whether Rosie was insane or not, and on the last page I was left wondering whether she died or woke up. There was no closure; there are innumerable loose ends, and I am just plain confused. Until I know whether there is a sequel, I can only give this book 2 stars because of the strange ending. It could have been so much better, so much more interesting. I hope the O’Brien will grow as an author from this book, because while it is wonderfully constructed, it does not feel completed to me.

Update: THERE IS A SEQUEL It is titled The Rule of Mirrors, and expected publication date is February 16, 2016. Knowing this, I can up my rating of The Vault of Dreamers to 3 stars. I’m still thuroughly confused about it though, and I hope that the sequel will clear some things up. This is one of those books where I have to read the sequel, even though I don’t necessarily want to read another 400 pages of confusion. I am optimistic about the next book though, and hopeful that the plot will become as interesting as the premise.

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