It would have been absolutely terrific with more subtlety in the characterization and care in the general plot, but “Dreamlands” still managed to be an entertaining read whose best asset is its crossover-world building.
Imagine...Take a fantasy yaoi in feudal Japan with slave fic vibes, but set it in an afterlife/ parallel world inhabited by monsters and demons with a human past; polish the details and the cultural references until it sounds like a historical. At its opposite, picture a closed space - half military base , half obscure agency scheming God knows what, oppressive and repressive, not very detailed beyond its smothering atmosphere, yet suggestive of a dystopian world. Make both worlds play a game of their own. Trap your uke in the dystopian-like world where his innocence will only meet abuse, then steal him from this world in an explosion of violence and gore (I’m exaggerating a bit for the sake of sensation, it’s not graphic), and offer him as a gift to the seme. Just to be sure that your story isn’t too dull, have a human team cross the gate between both worlds and make them collide and clash.
I’m amazed, but it totally works. It could have been an atrocious patchwork, but it is instead a nicely inticrate pattern weaving two opposite worlds, one romance, and three very different voices to tell the tale. The cast of characters is a little crowded, but it didn’t dampen my enjoyment; I literally flew through a good 3/4 of the story. I did notice a few things to niggle at on the way, but they were derisory flaws compared to the fun I had; that is, until the balance eventually weighed too heavily on the wrong side.
I got over Keno being so sweeeet and putty in Samojirou’s hands, I overlooked Mason being overkill in his otherwise entertaining irreverence, but I couldn’t take the too-stupid-to-live villains being so grotesquely stupid. Their farcical imbecility ruined the tension and my fun in the process. Also, I wished that we’d had more of the games the two worlds are supposed to be playing at. These story lines are either left untold for one world or muddled up for the other. Too bad, they were interesting story lines!
So, I ended up very annoyed but not quite unforgiving. The fact remains that “Dreamlands” is an enjoyable read despite its flaws. Let’s just say that it is a bit over-zealous, but most readers will be charmed by the fluffy-yaoi romance and the world building will close the deal.
Note : I'm reviewing the version that was published in 2009, and I might have let it wait a bit too long on my shelf, since it's not published anymore. However, it seems that a second edition will be published soon.