Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
Published: February 26th 2013 by Harper Voyager
Source: local library
Synopsis (Goodreads): There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same.
Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate.
Dreams and Shadows is a stunning and evocative debut about the magic and monsters in our world and in our self.
My thoughts: With a cover, title, and synopsis like that, I was very intrigued by this debut novel. Luckily, it did not disappoint. I was instantly swept away in the magic and horror of this world. Part dreamy fairy tale and part guide to the nether realm, this book is perfect for readers looking for some urban fantasy that is more thoughtful, nuanced, and well-written than something like, oh, the Fever series.
The blurb doesn’t exactly tell you what this book is about, and I’m not going to even try and summarize the plot. I’m taking the Flannery O’Connor way out of that question by saying you just have to read it.
Okay, maybe I’ll give a few hints. This is a book review, after all.
This is a story of two boys, and a slew of supernatural creatures, including fairies, goblins, djinn, angels, and tricksters gods set a against a magical realm superimposed on our own just outside Austin, Texas. With equal parts philosophy and gore, this will satisfy those who enjoy thoughtful reflections as well as reader who prefer lots of action.
In between chapters of Ewan and Colby’s story are “nonfiction” sections that explain the history of the supernatural. While these sections were interesting, they did slow down the progression of the plot, and at times, duplicated it or “spoiled” what would happen in the next chapter. This also affected the pacing, which was uneven.
I enjoyed the writing style, which was a welcome reprieve from the simpler styles often seen in young adult literature, and the world-building was excellent, if overwhelming at times. It was moving, scary, funny, and overall, it was a satisfying read. It certainly inspired some crazy nightmares, and I won’t be going camping any time soon, especially while visiting my best friend in Austin.
The Book Den: “There were beautiful moments of childhood innocence, friendship, and what it’s like to grow older, but most of Dreams and Shadows remained a pretty dark read.”
Worlds in Ink: “Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill is an engaging story that will captivate you, terrify you and by the end tear your heart to shreds.”
Badass Book Reviews: “Dreams and Shadows was a surprisingly complex novel. What starts as a twisted fairytale becomes a story about one young man realizing his destiny and changing the fabric of the world. This is definitely adult fiction as it is filled with violence and death, but at its heart, it’s about growing up and how the fantasies we cling to break down as we experience the real world.”
Kirkus: “Exceptional worldbuilding, sure-handed plotting and well-rounded characters, even the nasty ones, abound, and the whole impressive enterprise moves smartly along through a fairy culture with a structure and motivations sharply different from that of humans.”