The Dormia Trilogy (Houghton Mifflin)

What happens to all those crazy facts, characters, and anecdotes that get cut from my nonfiction stories?  They become fodder for my fantasy books.  Seriously.  I teamed up with friend, Peter Kujawinski, and wrote the Dormia trilogy.  This is an epic tale about a hidden kingdom, a twelve year old boy named Alfonso, and the ancient magic of sleep.  The American Library Association's official publication (Booklist) hailed Dormia as "a wonderful intergenerational read" and called it "a strong choice for readers still mourning the end of the Harry Potter books."  VOYA hailed the trilogy as a "hero's tale" written  "in the fine tradition of Tolkien and George Lucas."  The first book, Dormia, was published in 2009.  The second book, World's End, was published in 2011.  The third book, The Shadow Tree, is currently being written.  Read more below and also visit Dormia's official website (  


(This is from the book's press kit.)  Jake Halpern never intended to write a fantasy book.  He was a journalist who reported on American Pop Culture and Hollywood for NPR’s All Things Considered and the New Yorker.  Then one day, his wife announced that she had landed a job as a doctor with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Not long after this, Halpern found himself living on the Navajo Reservation in northwestern New Mexico, which remains one of the most remote and sparsely settled regions in the continental United States.  From his desk, in their tiny ranch house, Halpern watched prairie dogs frolic and tumbleweed blow across the street.  On most days, there wasn’t much to report.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Halpern’s longtime friend Peter Kujawinski was serving as an American diplomat in Paris.  His environs could not have been more radically different.  Kujawinski, known simply as “Kujo” by friends and family alike, inhabited a sprawling three bedroom penthouse which had stunning views of the Eiffel Tower.  On the weekends, he and his wife Nancy – a popular local musician – hit the bars, cabarets, and bistros of the Left Bank.  All that being said, by almost any measure, it was not an ideal time to be an American diplomat in France.  America was knee-deep in a war that was as popular in France as Spam or Kraft Singles American Cheese Slices.  In hi spare time, Kujo often imagined that he was in another country all together – that country being the kingdom of Dormia. 

Dormia is a place that both Halpern and Kujawinski had discussed on numerous occasions.  It was a kingdom, nestled deep in the Urals, inhabited by people who did all manner of curious things in their sleep – ski, climb mountains, compose operas, make pancakes, and shoot arrows with deadly accuracy.  It was, of course, a made up place – a figment of their collective imaginations – and the setting for their fourth coming novel, Dormia.


Ordinary sleepwalkers may wake up in the living room or in the kitchen eating ice cream.  But twelve-year-old Alfonso Perplexon tends to wake up tightrope-walking along a set of power lines or clinging to the top of a massive, wind-blown pine tree.  No one in his hometown of World’s End, Minnesota, has seen anything like it.  The doctors are stumped, but one wintry evening an old man arrives at Alfonso’s doorstep with an astounding explanation.

The old man introduces himself as Hill, Alfonso’s long lost uncle.  He spins a wild tale of Dormia, a kingdom hidden in the faraway Ural Mountains whose people have mastered the art of "wakeful sleeping."  Dormia is now in grave danger, says Hill, and its survival depends on a mysterious plant called a Dormian Bloom.  Once every few centuries, someone of Dormian descent is born with the ability to grow such a plant and, as Hill suspects, this person is Alfonso.  Hill insists that they depart for Dormia before it's too late, but the hour is late, and they are already being hunted by a shadowy figure named Kiril. 

Alfonso's journey takes him to an iceberg fortress in the Bering Sea, across the North Pole, and then deep into the snow-bound Ural Mountains.  Slowly he realizes that his arrival in Dormia is the key to saving a mythical kingdom and to discovering the secrets that lurk in his own sleep.