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Dreamhunter, Elizabeth Knox

April 27, 2011

Dreamhunter Book blurb

Dreamhunter - Elizabeth Knox

“Laura lay on her back and looked at the warm pool of candlelight on the ceiling.  She knew she couldn’t climb back onto the dream that had tossed her and taken off without her.  She could feel it still, like the beginnings of a fever….”

[Back cover, Elizabeth Knox (2005) Dreamhunter.  Sydney: Fourth Estate.]

“Fast-paced and dazzlingly imaginative, Dreamhunter draws the reader into an extraordinary world in which dreams are as vividly described as the cream cakes in the tea ship, the sand on the beach or the memories of first love.

Dreamhunter is set in a world similar to ours but for one difference, the Place, a mysterious region filled with dreams of every kind – dreams that heal, dreams that amuse, dreams that can influence or mislead.  Only a select group of people can enter the Place; the Dreamhunters, who are able to ‘catch’ the dreams and really them to eager audiences in the magnificent dream palace, the Rainbow Opera.

Fifteen-year-old cousins Laura and Rose are about to find out whether they are part of this prestigious group.  But nothing in their darkest nightmares can prepare them for what they discover.  For within the Place lies a horrific secret. A secret kept buried for years, a secret crying out to be heard…

Story concludes in Book Two: Dreamquake”

[inner front jacket, Elizabeth Knox (2005) Dreamhunter.  Sydney: Fourth Estate.]

Dreamhunter First Page



“On a late winter night, the Isle of the Temple lay quiet, streets empty and shimmering.  The moon was at the top of the sky, and the dew had set as frost on copper roofs, iron railings and window glass.  But the roof of the Rainbow Opera was clear of frost, and lit from without by tall gas beacons that rose, a crown of flame, from the coping around its dome.

Dreamhunter - Elizabeth Knox

Inside the dream palace all was silent.  Its central pit was illuminated by low nightlights, and by a mix of moonlight and the unsteady gas jets shining through stained-glass.  The Rainbow Opera seemed deserted.  But behind the doors that lined the four tiers of its balconies were bedchambers, all occupied, and all with their padded doors shut fast.  Each bedchamber was at an equal distance from a dais that rose in the centre of the pit, a platform upholstered in white silk.”

[p3 Elizabeth Knox (2005) Dreamhunter.  Sydney: Fourth Estate.]

Themes in the novel


Possible directions for study/questions to apply to Dreamhunter:

  • Imperialism and maps are connected through history (NZ’s history for example). What role do maps play in the politics of this novel?
  • How are friendship/parenting/adolescence portrayed in this novel? What benefits/difficulties does each bring? … and how do these ideas move the plot forward?
  • What is the ‘problem‘ in this novel? How does it inform the plot?  What values are revealed when this problem is analysed cloesly?
  • How is language used in the books? In terms of how it is used to establish the events of the novel and the nature of the characters? But also: What power is language given in the plot?
  • (after reading both books…) What is a ‘dreamhunter‘? What makes him/her a dreamhunter? What does this say about human nature/human possibility?
  • Knox plays with our beliefs about space, place and time to create this story.  What qualities do place/time have in the novel? How are they different to what we know? How are they the same?  How do these qualities influence the development of the plot? …or the characterisation of the protagonist?  What about our own beliefs around the nature of time and space; different cultures connect differently with these concepts… so what bits of our own/another’s beliefs are perpetuated in this novel?  (read Ann Pistacchi’s MA thesis on Patricia Grace or Frank Kermode’s Sense of an Ending to understand this discussion better!)
  • Joseph and Wevers both comment on the interaction with ‘modernity‘ that exists within the Dreamquake duet (see earlier blogs).  Bearing this in mind, but not getting stuck on it, consider how transport is different in this storyworld; in what ways can you be transported in Dreamhunter? How is transport connected to the ideas of this novel? In what ways have transport shaped the culture of this storyworld?

To be cont…

Meanwhile, check out the other notes I’ve made on this text in earlier blogs.  You’ll find all these notes as well as any comments or opinions made by Elizabeth Knox if you click on her name in the tag cloud – or here.

NOTE:  Much is revealed about the logic of this storyworld in the second book, Dreamquake.  Any full analysis needs to be done in context of the whole duet.

Texts that invite comparison


Dreamhunter - Knox

I’m wondering about Mahy’s The Changeover

How to use this blog

Mindmaps help me think critically.  They help me see the links between things and plot a course through all the observations and questions that a text provokes when I read it ‘as a text.’  This blog is a mindmap of sorts; full of random thoughts and relevant-seeming quotations or ideas.

  • There is a tag cloud to the right of the blog, which shows the topics I am exploring as ‘tags.’
  • You can also use the search bar at the bottom of the page to see if a particular word/book/author/theme is mentioned.
  • Each time I bring an author into the discussion for the first time, I add an “Introducing the author” blog. This is easily found at the beginning of the section under that author.
  • I have a section titled ‘Blog Notes’ in which I explain my blogging style.
  • I have a ‘Literary Resources’ section which includes general ideas on literature and its study as well as the questions I apply to any text I study.
  • These questions (eg. Character Questions) may be useful to any other reader wishing to look at this text differently (refer to very early on in the blogging history of this section).
  • I absolutely welcome discussion: comments, suggestions, ideas, criticisms… please add them!

Knox’s Dreamhunter: a History

Awards won:

Publishing History:

First published in Australia by Fourth Estate (HarperCollinsPublishers) in 2005, Dreamhunter is part of a duet that concludes in the second book, Dreamquake.

Dreamhunter is published in the UK as The Rainbow Opera.

The Rainbow Opera - Elizabeth Knox

Bibliography of secondary literature:

  • Joseph, Laura: “Dreaming Phantoms and Golems: Elements of the Place Beyond Nation in Carpentaria and Dreamhunter” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL (Special Issue: Australian Literature in a Global World)2009, 1-10. (freely available online)
  • Joseph, Laura “Opening the gates of hell: regional emergences in Carpentaria and Dreamhunter.” Southerly. 69.2 (Summer 2009): p66(15).
  • Wevers, Lydia.: “Fold in the map: figuring modernity in Gail Jones’sDreams of Speaking and Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter.”  Australian Literary Studies (23:2) 2007, 187-98. (2007)
  • Jackson, Anna“Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter: The Portal Fantasy Turned Upside Down” Journal of Children’s Literature Studies, (4:2), 2007 July, 18-36 (English summary.). (2007)
  • Eye for a God’s Eye:  The Bold Choice of the Omniscient Point of View in Fiction for Young Adults, Gwenda Bond’s MFA thesis (freely available)
  • A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction, by Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer, and Kathryn Walls (Victoria University Press: Wellington). This work considers a variety of New Zealand YA texts from a thematic point of view and references are scattered throughout.
  • Anna Jackson also gave a paper on Dreamhunter at a symposium on children’s literature in 2005.  Her paper was titled “The Place of the child in Dreamhunter’s ‘The Place.'”  The symposium, held at the University of Auckland, was titled “The Place of the Child in Children’s Literature” and was run by Claudia Marquis and Rose Lovell-Smith, but I don’t know whether the proceedings were published or not.
  • There are also a number of interviews and reviews around the place.  Check out the Listener‘s review: Dreamhunter review, or Shaken & Stirred, for example.
  • FARRAR STRAUS GIROUX DISCUSSION GUIDE (freely available online)

Author information:

Refer earlier blog: “Introducing Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox


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