Note: This contains some minor spoilers for Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, while still getting to the point of this book.
It’s hard to define the concept of Dreams and Shadows without giving away the first half of the book, so I’m sorry if this portion doesn’t contain too much.
Ewan is a 7 year old boy, living in the Limestone Kingdom, a fairy court just outside of Austin, TX. He lives with Dithers, a Bendith Y Mamau, who is teaching him the ways of fairies. He hopes to one day become a real fairy, and join the court.
Knocks is a changeling – specifically Ewans changeling. He and his adopted mother, a nixie, moved to the Limestone Kingdom when people began to become suspicious of the many drownings at the lake they live in, and the mysterious laughing boy who has been seen nearby.
Colby is a normal kid, with a pretty shit life, until he meets a genie who promises to grant him any one wish. And the wish he makes will forever change the lives of these three boys.
The second book picks up about 15 years later, and follows the adventures of the three boys in Austin. I’d love to say more, but I can’t without spoiling the first half. But it is, for sure, worth reading.
The narrative style in Dreams and Shadows is 3rd person limited, though the focus of the narrative changes fairly frequently throughout the book. The author also does a really good job of getting into the head of a 7 year old. I’ve heard many complaints of “So they met once, and they were suddenly best friends? What’s up with that”, but that’s kinda how it was for me when I was a kid. I would meet someone, we’d hit it off, and decide right then and there that we were best friends.
Point is, it’s cool.
The book is also interspersed with excerpts from various texts on fairies, magic, etc, to help explain things that have happened, or which are going to happen soon. It’s something that’s done pretty well.
The book has an epic, sprawling sort of feel to it, which I found appealing, but I can imagine would bother other people.
The first several chapters are a series of stories with no clear connection to each other, and no obvious purpose. They’re interesting and well written, but I remember being a few chapters in, and just wondering where it all was going. But once it does get going, it gets really good, really quickly.
The writer also does a pretty good job of getting into the head of a 7 year old kid, like I said before. I’ve read several critical reviews, where people complained about the whole first half of the book, stating that the characters, and the interactions between the characters were hard to believe, but this is something I attribute largely to those readers. As an adult, it’s hard to look at things through the eyes of a young child, especially one who’s just on the brim of understanding, or one who’s thrust into a bizarre supernatural situation. A lot of what happens to Colby, Ewan, and Knocks is pretty out there, but their reactions are fairly believable, in my eyes.
Initially, I had a hard time thinking of anything bad about this book, but after having a good friend of mine read it, a few things came to mind.
Women. Not many women appear throughout the course of the story, and most of the ones that do serve a few very specific purposes, and that purpose is to advance a male characters story, often in a way that is potentially detrimental to the health, safety, and/or sanity of said female character (see: Women in Refrigerators).
Something I picked up on, but which didn’t occur to me as a potential negative until said friend of mine brought it up is: there are several parts of the book, where the way things are described, and the way scenes are set up gives the sense of being written so as to easily translate into a movie, if it came to that. Again, this didn’t really stick out to me as a negative, but I can see why someone might not like it. It is worth note, however, that Cargill works as an internet film critic, and wrote the movie Sinister, so the cinematic feel isn’t anything we should be too shocked about.
Read this book. Right now.
“A”. Maybe even an A+, It’s just so goddanmed good.