The Dreaming Complete Collection by Queenie Chan
I’d read the first volume of The Dreaming before and enjoyed it, but I hadn’t read the last two volumes of the series. I thought looking at the new omnibus edition would be a good pick during October. This was one of Tokyopop’s more successful titles out of their big OEL push several years ago, and the collected edition features several color pages, bonus stories, and an author interview.
Identical twins Amber and Jeanie arrive at a boarding school called Greenwitch Private College placed far in the Australian bushlands. Their Aunt Jessie is headmistress at the school, but after getting the twins settled she takes off on an extended trip, leaving them alone to get adjusted. They soon find that the school isn’t what it seems. The vice principal Mrs Skeener has a pathological aversion to twins. There’s a mysterious locked room down one corridor that’s been ineffectively disguised by wallpaper. Paintings in the school seem to tell the story of something horrible happening to girls in the Victorian era. Jeanie is the more outgoing twin, and she sets herself the task of unraveling the mystery behind the strangeness at the school. Amber is more sensitive to her surroundings and has horrible dreams, taking refuge in sleeping pills and the hope that she won’t remember the details of her dreams when she’s awake.
As befitting a manga called The Dreaming, Jeanie gradually gets a full picture of the school by piecing details of different stories together. She shares frightening dreams with her sister, where they are lost in the bush wearing victorian dress, trapped under trees that rain blood. Other students share details that allow her to gradually get a full picture of the school’s history. Girls have gone missing before in the past, and when the ringleader of an ill-fated seance in the present day goes missing it looks like the disappearances are starting to happen again. The only criticism I have of the book is that it sometimes seems a little referential. There’s the crazy older spinster character in the person of Mrs Skeener. Characters frequently refer to “odd rumors” and if you’ve ever seen a scene of girls trying a seance in a horror movie, you know that when Jeanie and Amber’s classmates stage one it isn’t going to turn out well. Still, if you’ve enjoyed gothic novels and episodes of the Twilight Zone in the past, there’s a certain amount of pleasant nostalgia invoked in the reader by The Dreaming.
Queenie Chan creates a suitably gothic atmosphere for her book. The wide shots of the school surrounded by dense bushland look incredibly claustrophobic. There’s plenty of detail included in the school’s interior and the Victorian costumes of the phantoms that come to haunt the current students. Setting the story in Australia provides an interesting source of local ghost legends to draw from as well. I especially appreciated the feeling of the epilogue, which evoked the spirit of Daphne du Marier’s opening line in Rebecca “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” as Jessie revisits her own history with the school.
I liked all the bonus content included with this omnibus. There’s an extra story included at the end that shows how Greenwitch Private College will endure even after the twins’ history with the place has ended. Omake episodes called “The Haunted Linen Cupboard” are included at the end of each volume, giving Chan the opportunity to make fun of some of the horror conventions that she uses in The Dreaming. Overall, this series provided old-fashioned horror fun with plenty of spooky dreams, evil old women, Australian spirits, and the occasional axe.
For more about Queenie Chan, visit her website.
Review copy provided by the publisher.