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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
9/10

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.
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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Generally I try not to read the gushing tributes to the authors by the publishing houses as I figure that unless they love the author they wouldn't have published them. The back of the copy that I reviewed did have a suitably glowing tribute with a particularly bold question: is this your new favourite author? (I have rephrased it a little; the actual question is whether you have been introduced to your new favourite author, I felt the editing was acceptable).

This is a fantasy story deeply routed in the tradition of mixing the real and the unreal worlds together. You can tell the love for the genre that the author has with a really deep and faithful understanding of the types of faeries that are introduced. It is essentially the story of two boys and how their paths intertwine as they grow up. That sentence doesn't really give much away as it is much more than that, a modern fantasy set in and around Austin, Texas.

The writing is of a really strong quality from the start with a great deceptive first chapter that starts you one way before sending you the other. I did like the intercutting of the narrative with 'cut chapters' from an in world book. This particularly helped to ground what I had just read and to add further background to the characters.

I can't remember a book that has quite grabbed me for such a while. I really enjoyed the simplicity of some of the ideas, where lots of questions that we have about the world are seemlessly woven into the tapestry of this book. Halfway through it I wanted to write about it, and towards the end I didn't, as that would mean I had finished it.

Tragic, well written and with a really good imagination, this is a book I will probably read again and again. Really looking forwards to the next book. Thoroughly recommend to fantasy fans who don't mind it a little twisted.
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It's an extremely beautiful, strange, terrifying and addictive read. I have a feeling that the author managed to grasp the essence of old fairy tales and distill it into this story.

I would call it a contemporary fantasy, because it's not what we're used to seeing in our urban fantasy, and it describes the life and destiny of two human boys.

Colby is eight when he meet a Jinn in the forest and makes his wish to see every miracle, every monster and every hidden creature in this world. The weary, cursed jinn tries to persuade him to take on an easier wish, but like all stubborn eight year olds, Colby would not change his mind. The couple of such unlikely companions starts their long journey into the world of magic, angels and dragons.

Ewan on the other hand grows up as an enchanted child in a fairy forest, snatched from the cradle, replaced by a changeling, who drives his mother and father to their deaths. He does not know that he is a fairy sacrifice to the devil they make every seven years to keep their immortality. Fae world surrounding him is brutal and deadly to the humans, but Ewan grows up surrounded by love and completely unaware of his pre-destined death.

Enter the unknown chaos particle, - Colby. He meets him on his travels and two boys quickly become friends, but when Colby finds out that Ewan is going to die, he does everything in his power to prevent this.

Years later as young men both weary Colby and miserable Ewan are still friends, but only Colby remembers why, as fairy magic wiped Ewan's early memories. However you can't cheat your destiny and you can't cheat Jinn's curse, and one wily Coyote sets a catastrophic chain of events in motion to resolve the situation to his satisfaction.

To be honest, this book was a terrifying, at times, chilling and fascinating read. It felt like a mosaic was slowly being built together and suddenly you could see the whole picture in what felt like chaos before.

Dreams and Shadows is an undeniably brilliant debut from C. Robert Cargill and I wish with all my heart that he continues writing powerful stories like this one for many more years to come. A must read.
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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'Dreams and Shadows' is an interesting novel. Its various fairy creatures are not new - a quick Google reveals they all already exist in folklore - but most of them I had never heard of. Cargill brings these folklores together, telling a story that is in places quite mad, and a lot of fun. It is also very dark, featuring Hell as a key player and revelling in gore (making it unsuitable for younger readers). I was surprised to find Hell in a story about fairies, but I can't but praise Cargill for his fascinating musings on the nature of Hell - to give a hint, he presents an argument for why Hitler could well be in paradise.

Why only 3 stars? The first half of the book is noticeably better than the second, and there were too many flaws for me to ignore, both within the plot and within the narrative itself. In terms of plot, the adult Colby Stevens - one of our human protagonists - seems rather thick, and slow to grasp events, despite his supposedly extensive knowledge of the fairy world. The climax of the novel was unforgivably cliché, a standard mash of characters punching or stabbing each other. I had expected better when the rest of the story felt so unusual.

In terms of narrative, the pacing felt a little off, and I was not a fan of the constant switching of POVs (point of view) between different characters in the same scenes, sometimes in the same paragraphs. And one particular bugbear for me was the way the author was happy to describe people being mutilated and killed in exquisite detail, but too prudish to describe two characters making love (God forbid!).

I was hooked by 'Dreams and Shadows' from the beginning, but gradually my delight waned and by the end I was left feeling deflated. I cannot help but think this novel would have benefited from a few more redrafts before publication. It has the spark of potential, but it is unpolished.

(But my, what a great cover!)
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A modern day fairytale come urban fantasy set in both the solid, everyday world, and an un-seen, parallel place of supernatural creatures from a broad mix of folklores, who live, half-hidden, alongside the humans. It gets off to an explosive start, the opening is stark and tragic - though I found the childhood chapters less interesting than what followed. The childhood-in-fairyland story is fine in its way, but more conventional, less original, less intriguing than the unique vision of the second half. Everything warms up, gathers speed and takes on a whole new tone - much darker, sinister, thoroughly Gothic - when Ewan and Colby grow into teenagers, living divergent lives in the same town.

Gothic is the word that keeps coming back to me as I try to describe this tale; a dark and bloody streak of it runs through the narrative - it's not something I generally associate with a story set in Texas. The location, in Austin's seediest bars and a mystic bookshop, certainly adds a dash of spice to this modern day tale of angels and demons that has more to do with the Brothers Grimm than anything by Disney. From start to finish, Dreams and Shadows is pretty raw and thoroughly gory - not one for the kiddies, for sure. The end appeared to be setting the scene for a new story. If this is the first in a series, I'm deeply sorry that the - for me - best character, doesn't make it to the end.

In short, this a great book by a creative author I'll be watching for sure.
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on 16 March 2013
The press suggested this was heavily influenced by Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke, and I suppose this is true. They have both written this kind of fantasy. Susanna Clarke's Mr Norrell in particular is concerned with the fairy kingdom, and this novel is a welcome addition to the genre, although i would say it is not as well written as American Gods or Mr Norrell..

However, it is well written, and the story is compelling, if not entirely well planned. There are elements that don't tie up or feel somewhat peripheral to the story. As a whole though it's enjoyable, contains a lot of interesting detail about this mythology, has an interesting protagonist and kept my attention throughout..
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on 8 January 2015
Loved this! With its magical cast, comparisons to Gaiman are inevitable - but its feel is distinctly different. As good as Gaiman...? Maybe not; but It is intelligently and sensitively written, and it does stand head and shoulders above other faerie-based fantasy I've read. I'm moving straight on to the next one, anyway, and suspect that this is a series I'll want to run and run.
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on 11 April 2014
I enjoy this type of novel, suggesting as they do how another realm of existence, ancient and fully formed, might interact with our own world.

This is an excellent example, with strong, novel characters whose dysfunctional lives go on to collide in spectacular fashion.

Basically, its a Fairy Story for grown-ups. Involving and well written. I think it would make a great film.

I hope the author continues in this vein. I will certainly be on the lookout for his next effort.
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on 6 February 2014
The word brutal springs to mind when trying to describe the fairy folk in this tale.

Based heavily on Irish folklore and other incredibly well researched European ghouls and goblins, Cargill creates a parallel world living alongside modern day America filled with all those nasty little creatures you were told stories about when you were a kid.

It starts in the traditional "Once upon a time" Disneyeque way but quickly rips off any veneer of "happily ever after" by committing a vicious double killing in the first chapter and simply continues in this fashion, filling the pages with more blood, horror and violence than you can shake a stick at. What I particularly liked was the way the story was interspersed with "extracts" from fictional guides to the fae folk that. It is eventually revealed that these books are written by one of the characters (but I won't spoil it and say which one!). By doing this it allowed the author to explain the history and myths of certain creatures without trying to fit in lengthy descriptions into the main plot.

I thought it was beautifully written, that the plot was strong and well constructed and that the characters were engaging. I initially thought this to be a stand alone novel but am excited to discover it is actually the start of a series.

However, for all my praise, be warned! This book is not happy. Nothing goes right. Lots of characters die. If you are interested in folklore, appreciate well written fantasy novels and are a fan of the series Supernatural this is the book for you. If not, probably best to swerve it.
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on 2 September 2014
I found this book to be a very enjoyable read, sometimes it literally felt like a dream, oh the clichè. Certainly recommended to anyone who likes the 'hidden world beyond our meagre perception' type story, and yes I will compare it to Neil Gaimans Neverwhere, favourably. Certainly a book of two halves with a distinct sense of fairy tale and magic to the first half, and of realism to the second as we see the results of various actions and events started in the first half. The short chapters make this very easy to read, and hard to put down.

Sometimes it's hard to describe exactly why you enjoy a book so much, and for me this is one of them. It has flaws but I just didn't really care, it was just fun. Sometimes it edges towards horror I would say, and there were some dark moments. And there is some fantastically thought provoking dialogue too, which was interesting. I just really liked it!
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