When Audra was a little girl she spent many a night terrified of a clown. As phobias go, coulrophobia isn't rare, let alone odd. What is odd is that one day, the clown who had been haunting Audra's dream for years, suddenly comes to life. You see in Audra's version of Chicago, some people have the ability to create living beings out of their nightmares. Audra as it turned out is not a troubled child but an Ideator. As an adult, Audra works with an agency tasked with policing earth and Nod - the land of the nightmares with Jinx, her nightmare come to life.
Audra and Jinx work well as a team but when Jinx gets kidnapped and a high profile incubus (read: living nightmare) manages to escape custody, Audra knows that despite being pulled off the case, the balance between Nod and Earth is out of balance. Can Audra find Jinx in time to stop a full incursion of the earth?
I was immediately put off by Night Terrors because it began with a big battle before we were given any idea about the world, or the characters involved. It's hard to root for the protagonist when you don't know anything about the players involved. It's always good to hit the ground running; however, since this is the first book in the Shadow Watch series, it felt completely disorienting. From the beginning of the novel the nightmares brought to life were referred to as incubi. Waggoner put a spin on the incubi mythos but he took quite a bit of time before he explained this leaving me feeling for quite some time that his story didn't make any sense.
Once the world of Night Terrors was explained, I did find it interesting. The very idea that one's dreams could come to life is actually quite fascinating. Equally so is the idea that the incubi would have one personality during the day and another at night when they became the living embodiment of the nightmare. I found Jinx to be a fascinating personality and he was certainly an interesting twist on the terrifying clown.
As fascinating as the concept of Night Terrors is, I found that I couldn't invest in the story let alone get lost in it. For me, at least part of the problem were the fight scenes. They seemed to drag on and on. Neither Audra or Jinx seemed to really investigate anything and sort of just lucked into clues and made assumptions that lead to a conclusion. There is also the issue of the Perry Mason like confession at the end of the novel. The story telling very much let down the concept.
In Audra, we once again have an isolated ass kicking protagonist. She is filed with spunky agency and never takes time to formulate a plan of action. Audra charges forward, even when it is detrimental to herself because that is what hard asses do. She is far more of a walking trope than she is a character. There are other female characters in this novel and so Night Terrors does pass the Bechdel test; however, while women do interact, I would be hard pressed to say that there are any real relationships.
Night Terrors is another in a long list of highly erased novels. The sole character of colour is Commander Sanderson and he is essentially promoted to obscurity. To make matters worse, Jinx and Audra expend quite a deal of time trying to save him. We also got a bit of appropriation with the following:
"Then again," Russell said, "these are Incubi we're talking about."
"Hey!" Jinx said. "That's racial profiling!" (pg189)
Really? First off, Incubi are imaginary creatures and cannot be racially profiled. Not only this statement outright appropriation, it belittles the damage done to people of colour who must deal with this on a daily basis.