The first thing that will strike readers is that Rosie is not quite like her fellow students. She is highly innocent about the ways of the Forge School and what it takes to gain popularity but at the same time is extremely jaded about life in general. She is independent but still succumbs to peer pressure. These contradictions remain front and center as Rosie attempts to balance life as a contracted student and as a free-thinker determined to get answers to her questions. In some ways, her inconstancy is appropriate for her age. In others, it is rather distracting. The wisdom gained from her rough childhood among the poorest of the poor disappears too frequently for comfort in spite of her youth. The addition of a love story to the proceedings do nothing to improve some of these inconstancies as it tends to reinforce the innocence and lack of worldly ways the defines life at Forge but does not necessarily define Rosie herself.
The fact that The Vault of Dreamers is the first book in a series only partially redeems the ending of the story. There is not adequate explanation of the science behind the insidious actions of the dean of students.The pacing towards the end is extremely rushed too. Because so much happens in a few short pages, the reader gets the impression that it is not a series but a stand-alone story. This serves to make the last scene incredibly frustrating and highly disappointing. Even with the respite of the promise of future adventures, the ending is a bit of a conundrum. It leaves no apparent room for the future of Rosie’s story and leaves readers impotent with rage at the unusual-for-her actions and attitudes.
The Vault of Dreamers occurs in the undetermined future. Technology appears only slightly more enhanced than it is today, but there is an even greater divide between the haves and the have-nots. The reasons behind this division remain nebulous and are among the myriad of unanswered questions left when the story ends. Readers do not get a clear impression of the world outside the Forge School, the politics, the economics, and society in general. Given what Rosie discovers about the school, this lack of clarity of the world at large is puzzling and adds to a reader’s general confusion.
The Vault of Dreamers has all of the trappings of a fantastic new series. The story is exciting and unusual. Rosie is an intriguing heroine, determined to uncover the truth and not afraid to question the unquestionable. There are dark secrets within the school and later an apparent conspiracy. However, the ending unravels all of the magic Ms. O’Brien creates on the previous pages. The entire story becomes a frustrating experience as readers are left to question just what possibly could happen next and to decide whether it is worth attempting future stories in the series.