Ewan is a quiet baby. He only gurgles. And when he’s taken from his cot in the middle of the night, he doesn’t make a sound.
No – it’s not Ewan that wakes his parents up in the middle of the night, not Ewan who turns his parents mad. He has been replaced by a vicious and hideous changeling, the nixie Knox, who ultimately sends his parents to death.
Ewan is swapped into the sprawling and secret world of the Limestone Kingdom, where redcaps, sidhe and gwyllions dance and feed in their various ghastly hunts. He has a destiny among the fairies, a destiny dark and horrific.
Colby, eight years old, is largely abandoned to his own devices, and on a play trip into the woods, he meets the doomed dijin, Yashar. Despite being a child, Colby wishes big, not realising just how much his life is about to change: just how entwined he will become in the world of the Fae.
As we follow the lives of Colby, Ewan and the hate-driven Knox, we discover a world that seems entirely comprehensible – a world that puts the frailties and flaws of human life into startling relief.
It’s a dark, dark world out there
This thrilling and often horrific contemporary gothic fairytale twists and turns through the alleys of the obscure and, in the archaic sense of the word, the awesome. As we follow the lives of the boys through an unrecognisable world, we realise just how brief human lives can be. Cargill explores the folklore of many different cultures, blending them comprehensibly and completely, at the same time making it largely believable.
Grimmer and grimmer
He does this in a variety of methods, superb writing being one. It’s the kind of writing that is easy to comprehend. It’s not too showy, and it’s not too simple. Cargill might do a lot of telling rather than showing, though I barely noticed it. In fact, his filmic experience adds to the book: I could imagine the world and its creatures and the story plying out against it in a dark and terrifying world. It was a world that introduced me to a variety of fascinating tales and ideas, which was one of the reasons I picked up the book in the first place. I have always been fascinated with fairytale and I want to expose myself to as much of it as I can.
I liked the heart racing pace of the story. I was ensnared by how it was going to play out, and I as I tried to comprehend the strange world, my mind was racing to figure out what various plot hints and foreshadowing meant. It was intricately clever, the kind of clever that I get geeky writing thrills from. I was continually surprised and delighted – and horrified – by the imagery and the twists and turns of the plot.
I love books that make you hate the characters with a spine-tingling passion, and this book was no different. There are many malicious and evil characters in Dreams and Shadows, and my spine tingled at them all as they cut their enemies in half and crushed them like grapes. The vilest creatures were the redcaps, whose lust for blood drove their violence, but the most disturbing character was the grinning trickster Coyote, who I loved to hate in armfuls. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the main characters were relatable, enchanting and easy to sympathise with. I would very much like to see their development among so much tragedy in further accounts of this mysterious world.
Worth a read?
This is a book straight from the likes of Grimm, enchanting and thought provoking, exploring fairytales in a way I haven’t seen before. This is a book that feels magical when I hold it. It’s story will tug at my thoughts for a long time.
“If you remember one thing, remember that there is not a monster dreamed that hasn’t walked once within the soul of man.”
Dreams and Shadows can be purchased from good bookshops now. The author owns a very nice smelling, softly covered and pretty book for this review and her bookshelves.