Novella Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson


Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Tor.Com

Length: 166 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: August 16th 2016





Publisher’s description

Professor Vellitt Boe teaches at the prestigious Ulthar Women’s College. When one of her most gifted students elopes with a dreamer from the waking world, Vellitt must retrieve her.

But the journey sends her on a quest across the Dreamlands and into her own mysterious past, where some secrets were never meant to surface.”


This novella follow Vellit Boe, a middle-aged professor teaching at a women’s college, who  also happens to be an inhabitant of the dream world. When her most talented student elopes with someone from the walking world, she has to drop everything to find her. Indeed, this student is the daughter of a really influencial member of the Academy and the disappereance of his little girl could have harsh consequences on the future of the only place where women can be instructed.

This story is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story called The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, I have not read it and you don’t have to read it either if you don’t want to since the story stands well on its own. I just know that this novella is inspired by Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle without all the sexism and racism that we can find in his stories.

The writing of this little story was really good. While reading, I  had the feeling that I could picture everything and that was probably my favorite thing about this novella. The story was interesting but what made the story was for me the character of Vellit Boe and how she changed during her journey. Indeed, before becoming a professor she used to be an adventurer and it was great to see her reconnect with the person she was in her youth.

So I really enjoyed Johnson’s use of setting and her main character’s perspective on the dream world. I also liked the discussions on feminism, race and the fear of the unknown raised in this work. However, I expected to like it more than I did, it sure was an interesting piece and I read it fast but the plot in itself wasn’t that original to me. I don’t know if I should have read the Lovecraft story beforehand, it might have helped to keep me invested in the story a bit more.

I found the ending to be really strong though, I read a few reviews where the ending was a bit criticized but I thought that it really suited the tone of the story.


If you’re intrigued about this title, give it a try, especially if you have strong feelings about Lovecraft (conflicted or not, this novella seems to be enjoyed by both his admirers and detractors).



I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to

5 thoughts on “Novella Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe by Kij Johnson

  1. Glad you enjoyed this one. I must confess I’ve not had the best track record of Lovecraft type stories but I shall bear this one in mind given your comments about detractors also seeming to favour this one.
    Lynn 😀


  2. I intended to read this, as I like to read as many novellas as I can, but I just never got to it. I haven’t read that Lovecraft story either, so maybe it would have worked better to have that as a reference. Lovecraft inspired stories tend to be hit or miss for me:-)


    1. It was my first Lovecraft inspired story (as far I know at least) and I liked it but I am definitely not a Lovecraft expert since I only read one of his stories (I think it’s called The Tomb), it was the first story he ever published and even though it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t that great either, maybe his older stories are better, I don’t know, I might try to read a couple of those in the future just to see how his work influenced the horror and dark fantasy genres.


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