I just finished this ARC yesterday and was completely enthralled the whole way. Dreams and Shadows is an extremely dark, violent fantasy reminiscent of Neil Gaiman, and Cargill knows his Sidhe. But it isn’t just about the fair folk. It involves all kinds of creatures: angels, demons, djinns, wizards, etc. The novel is a fantastic combination of well-researched mythology and unique imaginings.
I will warn the reader. This book is extremely gruesome. It is not for the weak-stomached reader, and it is NOT for kids. At times, I struggled with the graphic nature of the text. It is a measure of the author’s skill that he is able to paint such a gory picture in the reader’s mind. Do not let it deter you, however. The story is full of suspense and high emotion. He definitely captures the malicious nature of certain kinds of fairies–a nature that many authors choose to overlook.
Cargill is a great character writer. He captures very well the various natures of the fair folk–those who take sustenance from humankind, those who are well-intentioned but harmful anyway, and those who are bright, benevolent, and full of light. His human characters, as well as the tortured fallen angels, are equal parts good and bad, both selfish and selfless simultaneously.
The novel tells the story of two boys–Colby and Ewan. Their beginnings are quite opposite: Colby is raised by an alcoholic mother, and spends his time playing imaginative games alone in the woods. Ewan is born to a seemingly perfect family. He has loving parents and is set to have an easy life–until he is abducted by the fairies and replaced with a changeling who destroys his happy home. The two boys meet at age seven when Colby, with the help of a supernatural friend, saves Ewan’s life. From then on, as they grow up, Colby views himself as Ewan’s protector, and his loyalty is tested to the limit when the fairy kingdom returns for revenge.
It’s brilliant. Straight up and undoubtedly brilliant. The narrative is punctuated at intervals by excerpts from fictionalized, researched publications on fairies. These “publications” give the reader a bit of foreshadowing about what’s coming in the following chapters. It’s a really interesting way to educate ill-versed readers in fairy lore and give a preview of what’s coming without being as annoying as foreshadowing often is.
The book is slated for release at the end of February. If you live in the Austin area, visit www.bookpeople.com to check out the author event that we will be hosting. You must purchase the book at BookPeople to have it signed, but I think you’ll really enjoy it, so that shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re a big fan of fairy lore, and you want to read something by an author who knows what they’re talking about but can give it a unique spin, I encourage you to pick up this excellent addition to the urban fantasy genre.