Pros: Great characterizations and an interesting plot; stunning short story at the end
Cons: I’m still not all that fond of Lee
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Bridge of Dreams is book three in Anne Bishop’s Ephemera series, after Sebastian and Belladonna. In this series the world has been broken up into many separate small landscapes. Ephemera, the material that makes up the world, responds to the wishes of ‘Landscapers’ who are capable of protecting and nurturing these places, and ‘Bridges’ who can connect one landscape to another. Ephemera also often responds to powerful ‘heart wishes’ from otherwise ordinary people. In each subsequent book Ephemera has grown more responsive to others, and it seems to be developing a somewhat puppy-like personality. Bridge of Dreams focuses on Glorianna Belladonna’s brother Lee, who’s a Bridge. He’s attacked and taken to a city called Vision, where he finds himself blinded and locked in an asylum. There he meets Danyal, a shaman who doesn’t understand just how powerful he can be, and Zhahar, a most unusual woman. While Lee’s family tries to find him, he tries to figure out what’s causing whole streets in the city to disappear.
Lee still isn’t my favorite character of the series, but he definitely gains dimension and learns a few valuable lessons over the course of this volume. I like the fact that learning and growing doesn’t change him too much; he’s still himself. He believes he’s falling in love with Zhahar, but this isn’t a romance and they face some serious, possibly insurmountable odds. Zhahar is a Tryad. She has two sisters, but the three of them exist in one body. Sort of. One of the three is visible at a time, and while the three share a ‘core’ body, many things change. One might have a stitched up wound, while the other two have bruises in that same place. Their faces and voices are different. Zeela is tougher and stronger than the other two. Sholeh is a bright student but somewhat fragile. Zhahar is a sort of middle ground between the other two. Her people tend to be viewed as demons. Zhahar is trying to find a way to anchor their landscape to the city of Vision, because the landscape itself is becoming more and more inhospitable. She has some feelings for Lee, but for a Tryad to love a ‘one-face’ is a taboo that carries terrible consequences for the three sisters. Ms. Bishop is brilliant at making the three sisters stand out as individuals and as a team without overdoing things. Also, despite the fact that Zhahar and Lee have some feelings for each other, that isn’t the major driving problem of the story, and it doesn’t have a pat ending.
At the end of the book Ms. Bishop includes a short story called “The Voice.” It takes place before the events of the novel, giving some background on one of the side characters (Kobrah). It’s a tale of what one village does in order to keep its people happy: they force all of their sorrows onto one mute woman whose life is just horrific. The main character, a young woman named Nalah, becomes determined to save her. She also plans on saving herself and a couple of her friends from the village, but Kobrah’s abusive husband gets in the way. I shed more than a few tears over this one; if I had to separate the ratings for the novel and the short story I’d give the novel a 4 and the short story a full 5!