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Book Review: Dreams and Shadows
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Dreams and ShadowsDreams and Shadows
Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle Edition
Written by C. Robert Cargill
Harper Voyager
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Cover Price: $24.99

I can’t tell you how many coming-of-age fantasy stories I’ve read in which the young hero is granted or somehow miraculously receives a special power that will help him or her eventually save a kingdom or even a world. These stories—though presenting hardship and struggles for the fledgling protagonist—tend to grasp the idea that having such power and responsibility is a “good” thing, while subsequently producing the happiest of endings. This time, it was different. I devoured screenwriter and former film critic C. Robert Cargill‘s debut novel, Dreams and Shadows—his take on this classic fantasy trope is darkly ominous, yet wonderfully refreshing.

Ewan was kidnapped by fairies as a newborn and raised as one of their own in the Limestone Kingdom. Understanding that he is a human but believing himself to be a part of their community, Ewan is eager to become a fairy; and he believes that day is quickly approaching. Unbeknownst to Ewan, the fairies have other, sinister plans for his future.

Colby, an inquisitive human boy, happens to meet a Djinn (genie) named Yashar, while playing alone in the woods. After many questions about what other sorts of “imaginary” creatures actually exist, Colby learns that Yashar can grant him any wish he would like. Despite Yashar’s initial protests and recognizing that there could be dire consequences, he is unable to deny Colby’s wish and is forced by what would seem to be nature itself, to make Colby see “everything supernatural.”

What Colby can’t quite grasp due to his impressionable young age is that his harmless, childish wish will yield great power and unwanted duty. He will slowly come to the realization that he is not in control of his life: he is under the control of destiny. The fates of both he and Ewan intertwine as the veil is broken and two worlds collide all along the backdrop of Austin, Texas. Scheming fairies, vicious dwarves, gruesome changelings, powerful wizards, drunken angels and frightful demons: these are not simply the things of dreams but rather those that lurk in the “shadows.”

Dreams and Shadows, with all of its heart, depth and colorful characters is quite an ambitious undertaking, but Cargill skillfully pulls it all together. His depiction of the innocence of children is spot on, revealing their playfulness, curiosity and humorous speech with ease. He is able to present various classic supernatural beings, adding brilliant new twists to each one. Additionally, Cargill portrays the undesirable weight of power and destiny in a remarkable way. He makes sure that you care for the characters while at the same time helping you to understand that the unknown might not be all that fun.

A tale of love and friendship; manipulation and devastation; growth and knowledge, Dreams and Shadows is a modern day urban fantasy that seeks to provide a realistic approach to the genre. I fell in love with Colby and Ewan’s story and anxiously look forward to reading what will hopefully be many more of Cargill’s novels in the future.

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