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Yumi and the Nightmare Painter: Secret Projects #3    by Brandon Sanderson order for
Yumi and the Nightmare Painter
by Brandon Sanderson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2023 (2023)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I know that anything I read by Brandon Sanderson will reward the effort, I must admit that I struggled to get into Yumi and the Nightmare Painter, third in the author's Secret Projects - but of course it was worth persisting. Readers are introduced to two very different world environments, and to leads who appear almost opposites on the surface, but who have core similarities.

Painter patrols dark, shrouded streets, watching for nightmares that attack and hurt sleepers - his drawings eliminate them. Though there are many who do the same work, he is isolated and keeps to himself, avoiding his previous friends. Yumi has been raised from early childhood for a specific task, each hour of every day strictly regulated and controlled. Her art, based on meticulous stacking of rocks, summons spirits that provide vital energy to the villages she visits. She has never had friends or any choice in her life.

One day, Painter finds himself wearing Yumi's body and living her life, alongside a ghostlike Yumi who does her best to coach him as her substitute. Painter badly wants to be her hero, even though he knows he is not heroic. When he falls asleep they switch roles, but Yumi appears in his world as herself, with Painter is the ghost. She meets Painter's once friends and enjoys escaping her restrictive life. As this continues, they decide they need to teach each other drawing and rock stacking, and become closer in the process.

As they also strive to make sense of what's happened, the danger to their worlds escalates fast. Yumi speaks up for Painter to his once friends, while Painter is determined not to let her go. Towards the end comes an admonition relevant to our own future and AI research - 'When you Awaken a device like this, be very, very careful what Commands you give it to follow.' As always, Brandon Sanderson shows himself to be a brilliant writer with quite an incredible imagination!

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