Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
This brilliantly crafted narrative – part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Torro, part William Burroughs – follows the boys from their star-crossed adolescences to their haunted adulthoods. Cargill’s tour-de-force takes us inside the Limestone Kingdom, a parallel universe where whisky swilling genies and foul mouthed wizards argue over the state of the metaphysical realm. Having left the spirit world and returned to the human world, Ewan and Colby discover that the creatures from this previous life have not forgotten them, and that fate can never be sidestepped.
If you follow my blog at all then you probably already know I am always taken in by a beautiful book cover, and Dreams and Shadows is no exception here. Featuring all kinds of mythical creatures and oddities, I knew this would be a book for me, and I certainly wasn’t wrong!
In all fairness, it did take me a little while to get into this book, mainly because from the opening pages you are introduced to a number of different mythical creatures that I had never heard of, and found a little hard to imagine. At first the chapters alternate between the story, and excerpts from a book about fairies and all their folklore, which I found a little jarring at times, and I’m still not sure if these excerpts were completely necessary or essential to the story as a whole. It soon interrupts the flow and pace of the story, but if you can hang on and persevere, these excerpts do come to an end, and you will find yourself fully immersed in this stunning world Cargill has created.
A lot of reviewers have been likening Cargill to Neil Gaiman, and yes I can see where they’re coming from, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending this book to Gaiman fans, but I do think it’s important to say that Cargill has definitely made this novel his own, and has his own distinctive style and voice. I absolutely loved all the different types of fairies explored here, and the way they’re depicted in their truer colours – as not particularly nice beings most of the time. Cargill introduces you to the likes of the redcaps, (small fairies who must kill in order to keep their hats red and wet with blood to give them energy or they will die) nixies (water spirits ready to drown you in an instant) the Leanan Sidhe (beautiful women who take humans as lovers), and of course the almost faithful djinn (otherwise known as a genie). This is just a taster of what’s explored throughout, and you can see just how creative Cargill has been here.
You may think a novel about fairies would be pretty tame in the grand scheme of things, but make no mistake, Cargill does not hold back on his violence here. There are some rather gruesome scenes when creatures from hell come to play, making this definitely not a story for the faint of heart, or younger readers. This is not your average bed time fairy tale.
I’m really impressed with Cargill’s debut novel, and I literally can’t wait for its release so I can get recommending it to people. Dreams and Shadows surprised me in every way, and although the story leaves you satisfied with an ending, there is definitely a not-so-subtle hint that there is more to come from some of these characters, and I’m really excited to see what Cargill will write next!
Dreams and Shadows is released on 28th February, published by Gollancz. A big thank you goes to the publisher for providing me with an early review copy.