Title: Dreams and Shadows
Author: C. Robert Cargill
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Publishing date: 2013
Monsters are real. Very real. But they’re not just creatures. They’re people, they’re nightmares. . . They are the things that we harbor within ourselves. . . there is not a monster dreamt that hasn’t walked once within the soul of a man. (pg 49)
Women were tricky that way. They wanted to be thought of as beautiful, but they only wanted you if you thought they were almost beautiful. (pg 190)
God doesn’t hide himself away because he wants each person to come to him with blind faith; he hides himself away because if people knew the truth, they wouldn’t want to believe in him at all. (pg 211)
Nothing is permanent, but everything is never-ending. (pg 214)
Ignorance is the only one truly unstoppable force in this world. (pg 318)
Yes, people are sheep. Big deal. You need to stop trying to educate the sheep and instead just steer the herd. (pg 318)
The Devil catches every crumb that spills off Heaven’s plate. (pg 354)
The total of our lives won’t be the things we did to survive, but the things we did to change the world. (pg 355)
Synopsis: Two boys from Austin, TX–Ewan and Colby–both end up in up in the Limestone Kingdom, a magical realm filled with fairies, demons, and all things supernatural. Ewan was stolen by a fairy as a baby. Colby stumbled upon the Limestone Kingdom with the help of a djinn (genie). After narrowly escaping death within the walls of the Limestone Kingdom, Ewan and Colby return to Austin. The novel follows the boys years later as they both struggle to deal with the consequences of their actions as children and are forced to fight the ultimate battle against the Kingdom’s most sinister creatures in search of long-overdue revenge.
This book is not for the faint of heart.
I am not a huge fantasy reader. In fact, this novel is probably my first true fantasy novel. Despite seeing mixed reviews on the book, something drew me to it. And I’m glad it did. I found it fascinating, start to finish.
It’s dark, gritty, sinister, relentless, and horribly pessimistic. It reminded me of Game of Thrones in that any character at any time is at risk of being axed. Even the ones you love. Even the ones you’re rooting for.
The characters are all perfectly flawed, making them feel honest and believable. Cursed genies. Drunken angels. Killer mermaids. Fairies who feed on others’ suffering. A young boy who asks for the wrong wish (twice). And a whole world of supernatural beings who will sacrifice their own young just to survive. The humans are just as flawed as the fantasy creatures. The villains, just as flawed as the anti-heroes.
I found the ideas fresh, imaginative, and unexpected. I loved exploring fairies and genies and trolls and angels and mermaids from a new, exquisitely dark perspective.
The quick-paced plot was packed with relevant, tense events all leading up to a superb climatic final battle. It’s a story line worthy of the big screen; I hope I have the chance to see it there one day.
In addition to an excellent plot, the strong writing was at times poetic and often profound. Despite the unreal world it creates, Dreams and Shadows touches on some very real themes: fate, vengeance, internal demons, and legacies.
Although I’m not big on books in a series, Cargill’s next novel, Queen of Dark Things, features at least one of the characters who manages to survive the horrific events of Dreams and Shadows. And I may just have to read it too.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Who should read this book: Fantasy book lovers. And not teenie-bopper vampire fantasies, either. But dark, dramatic, depressing fantasy lovers. Anyone who loves epic battles and underdogs and imaginative worlds that are even bleaker than our own.
Those looking for a happy ending need not apply.