Ashaye Brown is a young British author of Afro-Caribbean descent, with an unparalleled passion for mythology which led her to study a range of world cultures and mythologies, before exploring them further through her writing. Ashaye’s debut novel Dream Country is the first in an intended series set in visionary realms themed around dreams, nightmares and rich mythologies. Her novel landed yesterday, and to celebrate Ashaye shared an exclusive extract with us…
Dream Country explores a sibling rivalry to fuel your worst nightmares. The dysfunctional triplet gods of Sleep, Dreams and Nightmares – Theo, Fanta, and Tores – are kept separate by the deadly Gates of Horn and Ivory. Only one fact keeps them tightly bound: each of them is a suspect in their mother’s murder. Their knife-edge feud worsens when a mortal enters the world with astounding abilities that threaten to change the game for them all. In this thrilling young adult fantasy, Ashaye Brown brings to life a visionary world infused with Kenyan, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Grecian cultural references. A story like no other with stakes as high as they come.
”Theo said nothing. As always, when he came to the borders of Zion, there were no words. There were just the Gates.
All along the horizon a towering fence penetrated the sky. Its bars were ornate and intricate, with an air of delicacy. Sparkling white Ivory intertwined with bone-coloured Horn, each as deadly as the other. “The Gates of Horn and Ivory”, as the fence was commonly known, wrapped around the entire perimeter of Zion. On its other side the land was again split in two, creating three enclosed celestial realms in total. The green grass of Zion’s field stopped suddenly at the border of the realm, and on one side of the fence it turned into sand while on the other it became rock. There seemed to be a shadow cast over both the other realms although the same sun touched them as shone down on Zion.
Theo shuddered and only a second later a similar quiver ran through the crowd around him as an old man stepped forward towards the Gates, supporting himself on the arm of the muscular young man next to him. As one, the crowd stood up straighter. All except Theo, who hunched his shoulders down and felt himself grow small.
He shouldn’t have come.
The muscular young man stood with his back to the Gates with his head high. He must have felt Theo’s gaze because he turned and fixed him with an icy blue-eyed stare that made him shudder. Theo forced himself to maintain eye contact as he shook his head, once.
It’s not too late. Don’t do it.
If the other man got the message he didn’t show it, but raised his head again as if to return to his private conference with the blue sky. Iara reached for Theo’s hand and squeezed it encouragingly.
“You tried,” she said softly. “But it’s better this way.”
She was right. This was his fault, but there was nothing more he could do. Theo tugged nervously at the ends of his short hair, which fell in dreadlocks to the top of his ears, and then, resigned, he met the gaze of the old man. He was fair-skinned, with two mismatched curling antlers protruding from the top of his head, one knobbly and beige like an exposed kneecap, the other smooth and pearlescent. They seemed heavy; the old man’s back was bowed as if from the weight of them. His left eye was clouded over with apparent sightlessness but he saw Theo clearly.
The Gatekeeper tapped his cane several times on the ground and the crowd fell silent.
“Gods and Goddesses of Zion. Milord Theo.” The Gatekeeper bowed so deeply in Theo’s direction that his knees shook when he had to straighten again. In contrast to his fragile body, his voice was surprisingly strong, carrying all the way across the field and down to the river.
“As Gatekeeper I am honoured to guide mortals through these here Gates. Each night, as the people of our religion, the Majority, line up before me, I am the one who lets them through to either the Realm of Dreams,” he paused to let his audience’s gaze wander to the sandy half of the landscape behind him, “or the Realm of Nightmares.” Like a swinging pendulum the crowd’s gaze moved again, this time accompanied by an irrepressible shudder as it settled on the stark and rocky terrain. The Gatekeeper continued. “Or it is my honour to allow the mortals to pass a night of peace here in Zion, the Realm of Sleep. I am honoured to be able to keep Zion and its inhabitants safe, in the same way I protect the inhabitants of all three realms, by guarding these Gates. And yet today I feel no honour in the duty that brings us to these Gates.
We are here today to bear witness to the departure of Salvador Minor who, by his actions, has forfeited his right to remain here in Zion. He has revealed himself a traitor, an attempted murderer and a coward. And his worst crime of all, in this land where mortals seek their brief reprieve and the dead find their eternal rest, Salvador Minor stands accused of disturbing the peace.” An electric energy surged through the crowd as the crimes were listed before them. Jeers and taunts were thrown at the criminal from every direction. The Gatekeeper turned to the muscular young man beside him. “Do you have anything to say for yourself, Salvador?”
“Fine. In that case—”
“I am Salvador Minor! God of Justice! Thirteen years ago I allowed myself to be tricked. Blinded.Put to Sleep! I looked into the eyes of the All-Mother’s murderer and I didn’t see him. Justice wasnot served. I look into his eyes again today.” Salvador’s blue eyes brightened and ice became fire as he locked gazes with Theo. ”