The City of Woven Streets - Emmi Itäranta

I'm not sure how I first came across The City of Woven Streets but it's been on my library holds list for a while, ever since I saw a copy was being ordered and the premise sounded intriguing, so I thought I'd give it a go.

 

The people of this book live on an island which floods regularly, one which used to belong to the Web-folk whose disappearance was a source of mystery. It's a very regulated life, with people being assigned to various Houses and working there in between their annual tattoos - the ink used in these is supposed to prevent the people of the island from dreaming, which is believed to be the worst thing that can happen to them. Dreamers are regularly dragged off to be imprisoned, in case their 'sickness' infects everyone else. 

 

Our main character, Eliana, works in the House of Webs where her role is to be one of the many weavers (all women) who produce material to a specified pattern for a purpose I missed somewhere early on. Into her ordered and regimented life comes a woman who has been attacked and whose tongue has been cut out, but on whose hand is a tattoo of Eliana's name. Eliana and the woman, whose name we subsequently discover is Valeria, become reluctant friends after Valeria discovers Eliana's secret: she is one of the Dreamers too, but has managed so far to hide this affliction from everyone. 

 

Partway through the book this changes and the two are torn apart, as there is a problem with the ink so that, rather than preventing dreams, it actually causes them. Naturally this is a problem the folks in charge want to keep quiet and they do their best to silence all opposition, which is revealed to be the reason for Valeria being attacked and her parents murdered. Eliana then ends up in a nightmarish prison environment, forced to dive for coral in order to keep body and soul together before the sea takes its final toll of the island and the Dreamers are the ones revealed to have the only escape plan.

 

I think it's the slight vagueness of what exactly Eliana and her fellow weavers were doing that made me drop this from 4 to 3 and a half stars, because I couldn't quite figure it out (though perhaps I missed a vital comment early on) - is it a defense system, if so against what? The destructive power of the sea, to which the inhabitants of the island seem quite resigned, would seem to argue that most of the endeavours in which they're involved were actually quite pointless as opposed to the sheer act of survival. Still, I didn't get bored and lose interest partway through, so that has to be a good sign, and I'll certainly keep an eye out for this author's work - she has another novel in print, Memory of Water, so that's now on my library holds list as well.