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Fractured, fabulous and fearsome modern folklore,
This review is from: Dreams and Shadows by Cargill, C. Robert (2013) (Hardcover)
This book is a total delight, a mature fantastical morality tale which deftly weaves a credible reality where djinn, sorcerers, fallen angels and a myriad mix of fae (fair and foul) exist unseen alongside the modern mortal world.
It took a little while to get going - so do persevere through the early, dense and slightly confusing chapters which feature all manner of weird characters with Gaelic names - and then this artful story completely captured my attention and swallowed up whole hours at a time. There are few books which can transport an adult to an imaginary environment with any great degree of success, but I happily submerged into insidious forests and the depths of dark lakes.
Not since I met Morpheus and entered the kingdom of Dream has a 'fairytale' story gripped me so successfully. Inevitably, the author is being favourably compared to Neil Gaiman. That compliment may be a little premature (this is only one story arc, after all, not an entire universe which took a decade to reveal) but the scope of the story, its counter-intuitive twists and its all-too-flawed heroes evoke echoes of Gaiman's flair and creativity.
Like the Sandman stories, 'Dreams and Shadows' examines the frailty - and the strength - of humanity, using supernatural characters to lay bare our shared ambitions and fears. Parental love, abandonment; romantic love, betrayal; envy, despair, revenge and redemption: the themes are all relevant to the real world, but here they are seen in skewed and distorted form as the killer goats of the Great Hunt stampede ever closer, and murderous Red Caps skewer their prey, while a succubus literally loves the life out of her beloved, the Unseelie and Seelie courts unite in outrage, and one young boy might grow to be a wizard who could undo everything.
Altogether marvellous. Only the finale lets it down a little when all the threads fizzle rather than spark to a conclusion. The angels were rather under-used, I felt. And a minor warning: there are some explicit scenes of violence and several unsettling moments which may rattle around your skull for a while. As you'd hope!
Leave yourself plenty of time to revel in the reading of this book. It's a carefully constructed world and a story well told, and one of those gems which is rare in the finding.
If this is your kind of thing, then you may also enjoy The Magicians; a 'what if?' adventure which mixes modern grit with the possibility that somewhere like Narnia might actually exist.