Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill [From the Archives]

8 Oct 2015 by

Dreams and Shadows is a pessimistically brilliant and depressingly gripping novel – and utterly unforgettable. It brings you to the brink of hope that there is something beautiful ahead, and then throws you under the bus while laughing maniacally.

Cover - Dreams and Shadows - Courtesy of Harper Voyager


“Monsters are real. Very real. But they’re not just creatures. Monsters are everywhere. They’re people; they’re nightmares. […] They are the things that we harbor within ourselves. If you remember one thing, even above remembering me, remember that there is not a monster dreamt that hasn’t walked once within the soul of a man” (p. 51, Dreams and Shadows, C. Robert Cargill).

Ewan Thatcher was born to two unremarkably remarkable people, deeply in love, and living their perfect dream. It seemed as if he was fated to living a perfectly unremarkable life… that is, until Dithers the unseelie Bendith Y Mamau came and switched him out for a deformed changeling. Ewan spent the next seven years raised in the fairy court so that he could one day fulfill a remarkable purpose – one that wasn’t at all explained to him. Just as he was completing his transformation from human to fairy, a new friend came to play with him.

Colby Stevens was another unremarkable boy, raised primarily by his drunken, cheating mother – if you could call it “raised.” He spent most of his time playing in the woods by himself, dreaming up all sorts of imaginary mischief, until the day he meets a djinn who grants him a wish. All Colby wants is to be able to see all the supernatural things in the world while under the djinn’s protection. Soon, his life becomes inextricably linked to that of Ewan, and the two boys become the best of friends.

This all seems happy, good, and well, but the boys don’t know that their relationship is fated to be surrounded by blood and tears due to the sadistic trickery of Old Man Coyote.

The Nitty Gritty [Review]

Cargill has reached far back in time to before modern day’s glorification of the fairies, incorporating many of the original dark and treacherous tales from around the world throughout his first novel. Newcomers to the true fairy tales will be shocked and horrified at the seelie and unseelie courts and their coldly beautiful and mischievous natures that often end in brutality for humankind. Elements of horror, gore, and despair permeate the novel with little let-up for those seeking the brighter side. Dreams and shadows indeed combine into one brilliantly horrifying nightmare.

Vivid, witty, and brutally honest writing is the highlight of this novel. On one particular paragraph (see below), I had to stop to re-read it and then shouted out for my husband to listen. It’s so exquisitely parallels my own life living with four children (including one now eleven year old boy):

“There is no place in the universe quite like the mind of an eight-year-old boy. […] It’s as if some bored ethereal being is fiddling with the remote control to his imagination, clicking channel after channel without finding anything to capture his interest for very long. One moment he’s aboard a pirate ship, firing cannons at a dragon off the starboard bow before being boarded by Darth Vader and his team of ninja-trained Jedi assassins. And only the boy, Spider-Man, and a trireme full of Vikings will be able to hold them off long enough for Billy the Kid to disarm the bomb that’s going to blow up his school. All while Darth Vader is holding the prettiest girl in class hostage. And just in case things get a bit out of hand, there are do-overs.” –Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill, page 23

Around page one hundred ninety-seven, though, my spirits had sunk so far down into the gloom that I’d decided that I couldn’t possibly keep reading. The novel is broken into two books, so I decided to stick it out. Good thing I did because I turned two more pages and book two started. This had a slightly different vibe to it, which sustained my interest through the rest of the book. Quick note on the division of the books – I laughed very hard when I re-read the novel and realized that the first book and the second book have representative graphics on the bottom right corners.

Dreams and Shadows book sections

My biggest criticism is that the female characters are all woefully underwhelming in their morals and characteristics. I sincerely hope that Cargill will, in the sequel which is coming out soon, incorporate some more positive feminine characters. That said, only one of the male characters really had any positive characteristics, and as such, Harry was the one bright light in the entire novel.

The Takeaway


Only people who really like to peer steadfastly at the seedy underbelly to find the monsters in us all will like this book. And be warned. You might need to go out immediately to find a light and happy story of fluffy bunnies upon completion of Dreams and Shadows. That said, I loved it and I will be reading it again. And the next one. And any others that Cargill dreams up.



Dreams and Shadows

by C. Robert Cargill

Publisher: Harper Collins Imprint: Harper Voyager
Published October 29, 2013 Pages: 464
Review Source: review copy from Harper Voyager Review Format: paperback
ISBN: 978-0-06-219043-7 Finished on March 3, 2014

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[From the Archives] This is a previously released book review that was originally published on our parent website EmSun on March 5, 2014. Book reviews are being re-worked, updated, and re-released here in order to have all our content on one webpage. Thanks for understanding!

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