Throughout the series, as a result of his 70-year imprisonment, Morpheus learned a number of humanizing lessons, that have made him a better person(ification) as a result. Here's the one he picks up in this chapter: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
In Frank McConnell's introduction to this particular corner of the Sandman Library, he lets us non-literary critic types in on a little deal called "post-modernism". He defines it as "letting the reader know you're conscious of what you're doing at the very time you do it." And you guessed it, these little ins-and-outs of Neil Gaiman's thought process run rampant through this volume, thanks mostly to an aspect of the three-in-one goddess, the fates. The seamstresses of lives, and the writers of destiny. The ladies are there to comment at the beginning, and the end of this story, and all throughout, as well. As are another aspect of the three (but not exactly them, of course. You and I are not a hand, or tooth or eye, but we have all of those IN us), the Furies/Kindly Ones.
When her infant child Daniel goes missing and is apparently killed, Lyta Hall blames Dream, and, in a waking dream-journey of insane and mythic proportions, (aided in no small part by that conniving little former lover of Dream's, Larissa,) Lyta happens across the Kindly Ones, and sets them on Morpheus. Not because of responsibility for Daniel's disappearance, but for mercy-killing Orpheus (spilling of family blood and all that.).
Meanwhile, Loki & Robin Goodfellow, who are actually behind the child's disappearance, are being tracked down by the reformed (in more than one way) serial-killer nightmare The Corinthian, and Dream's raven sidekick, Matthew.
Drawing some lightness into this otherwise dark tale are Rose Walker & Delirium's quests for things lost along their travels. For Rose, it's her heart, in a journey that leads her into a rather embarrassing moment at an airport, an unusual game of draughts, and that dank basement in Fawney Rig where our story began, meeting with her Grandparent, Desire.
Delirium, on the other hand, makes her way around the worlds looking for her dog, Barnabas. Her chit-chat with Dream about some of those things she's said all along that she know that no one else knows, is one of my fave bits. And, thankfully, bumps into Lucifer at his new nightclub, where has a nicely human chat with the young lady about his past encounters with her brother. And he refuses to play a selection from "Cats", for one of his patrons, even when offered a bribe. The walking incarnation of evil, maybe, but at least he's got taste.
The Furies, by the by, are attacking the Dreaming, killing its residents. As long as Dream doesn't leave, though, no true harm can come to the land. Better take the phone off the hook, there, Lord Shaper. In the end, though, events take place so that there's only one option left to the Dream King: Taking his sister's hand. And the grand plans he's had for Daniel Hall finally come to fruition.
At first, this book came as a minor disappointment to me. Neil's in top form, of course, taking fantasy, humanity, and soap opera and mish-mashing them together seamlessly. Marc Hempel & Teddy Kristiansen's art, while an unusual choice, works great, and is among some of the best and most expressive in the series. The surprising amount of detail in facial expressions comes in handy in the final couple of chapters. Kevin Nowlan's terrfic-looking prologue introduces the characters well. But the disappointment came, in part, because I chose to read this before most of the earlier books and I was a wee confused. Nickel's free advice: DON'T DO THIS. Lots of the plot points went over my head, as well as the conspiracy surrounding Loki & Puck. Gaiman explains in his afterword that he didn't explain this on purpose, and neither will I, though I'm pretty sure I know it. So, yes, now I have a greater appreciation for this book.
And in the end, what does that leave you with? A handful of yarn, of course. Same old story.