In the introduction, the author acknowledges the debt "Bryony and Roses" owes to McKinley's "Rose Daughter." To me, "Bryony" felt like someone had re-In the introduction, the author acknowledges the debt "Bryony and Roses" owes to McKinley's "Rose Daughter." To me, "Bryony" felt like someone had re-written "Rose Daughter" just for me. While I liked the older book, it didn't sink into my heart the way "Spindle's End" or "Deerskin," or even "Sunshine" did--those stories have always felt mine, in some intimate and hard-to-define way. I have a few friends who feel that way about "Rose Daughter."
"Bryony and Roses," however, burrowed right down into my heart and brain, put down deep roots, and demanded that I read it NOW.
The so-called Kingfisher has been a favorite author of mine for a while now. She has an incredibly deft sense of humor, frequently making me bark out a laugh in startled, pleased surprise; and her characters have a sensible, unvarnished realism that makes me believe in their flesh. Reading her books, I cry, I shudder, I laugh. I laugh often, delightedly. I knew that I would love "Bryony and Roses" from the first line, but when I met the Beast and he was...not just suffering, but sardonic, sharp-tongued and caustic and vulnerable with self-loathing, my heart leaped.
This is a very good book.
It takes a very good book to make me want to live in a story that is essentially gussied-up Stockholm Syndrome, but Kingfisher does it, and well.
I really, really enjoyed this book. The world-building was great, truly intricate and absorbing, and Cargill really manages to make the fae feel inhumI really, really enjoyed this book. The world-building was great, truly intricate and absorbing, and Cargill really manages to make the fae feel inhuman. The whole story had that classic fairy ballad feel of doom from the very beginning, and I enjoyed the scholarly interruptions (even if it did sometimes feel like reading a monster manual.)
One of the things I loved about Cargill's universe is his very medieval blending of Christian myth and fairy folklore--I think today, most people tend to have those clearly separated in their minds. I think they forget that people were both Christian and believed in fairies. The Tithe was something I stumbled on when I was reading fairy stories as a kid, and it frightened me with a delicious sort of horror. It was great to learn that someone remembers that old attempt to reconcile folklore and religion.
I wanted to give "Dreams and Shadows" four stars. I really, really did. In the end, I put up three because the characters don't really live up to the richness of the world. It took me a really long time to warm up to any of them, and I think the only one I really cared about was Yashar.
And also, the women in Dreams and Shadows were very shallowly characterized and stereotypical. Aside from the fact that there was only one actual human woman in the story (who dies at the beginning, even if she continues to be a force throughout the story,) the other female characters are only varieties of the "destructive temptress" or man-eater (sometimes literally) type. This makes sense, since they're fae; but none of the female characters show the level of complexity or agency of Ewan or Colby. (And no women at the bar of the damned? That seems hard to fathom. In this world of misery and doom, I'd think that ladies would get an equal share whether they want it or not, as should be.)
So as much as I enjoyed "Dreams and Shadows," I can't rate it higher. It's still worth a read, though. I think I'll have to re-read it at least a couple of times more, so I can dig at the world-building. I will say that the last few lines are pretty much as perfect as the ending of a book can be. ...more