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Dreams and Shadows

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A brilliantly crafted modern tale from acclaimed film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill—part Neil Gaiman, part Guillermo Del Toro, part William S. Burroughs—that charts the lives of two boys from their star-crossed childhood in the realm of magic and mystery to their anguished adulthoods

There is another world than our own—one no closer than a kiss and one no further than our nightmares—where all the stuff of which dreams are made is real and magic is just a step away. But once you see that world, you will never be the same.

Dreams and Shadows takes us beyond this veil. Once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, Ewan is now an Austin musician who just met his dream girl, and Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. But while Ewan and Colby left the Limestone Kingdom as children, it has never forgotten them. And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies argue metaphysics with foul-mouthed wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your fate.

Dreams and Shadows is a stunning and evocative debut about the magic and monsters in our world and in our self.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 2013

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About the author

C. Robert Cargill

10 books1,108 followers
A veteran of the web, C. Robert Cargill wrote as a film critic for over ten years at Ain't it Cool News under the name Massawyrm, served as animated reviewer Carlyle on Spill.com and freelanced for a host of other sites including tenures at Film.com and Hollywood.com. He is the co-writer of the motion picture SINISTER, and lives and works in Austin, Texas.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 835 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,258 reviews8,702 followers
September 10, 2017
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

The first thing that the blurb for this book tells you is that DREAMS AND SHADOWS is written by an acclaimed film critic and screenwriter . . .

And you can tell.

Okay . . . But what does that mean?

Well, it means that the book is written like a TV series. Maybe even an entire season of a TV series, and b/c of that, I think I’ve figured out a quick way to test whether or not you’d like this book.

Did you like LOST? B/c LOST is:

1. Dark and twisty.

If you want to know what kind of person someone is, crash them onto an (seemingly) uninhabited island with limited resources, and sit back and watch their true natures emerge.

Also—LOTS of death. Lots of violent death.

2. A TV series, and thus episodic.

If you’re like me, you watched season after season of LOST, never knowing what the bloody heck was going on. You kept getting insights into what made the individual characters tick, and the action was enough to keep you enthralled and coming back for more, BUT. You never knew. What the bloody heck. WAS GOING ON.

3. Full of “coincidence.”

Almost all of the passengers on Oceanic Flight 815 were strangers.

Except they weren’t.

As events unfolded, you learned how interconnected everyone and everything was, far beyond the realm of believable randomness. Something larger was at work, something or someone, behind the scenes, pulling strings, cutting threads . . . But who? And why?

So even if you haven’t watched LOST, based on those descriptions/explanations, you should be able to determine whether or not this book is for you.

B/c it is NOT for everyone.

While no one was marooned on a tropical island, the typical Fae temperament is eerily similar to the Id-like tendencies many of the characters on LOST succumbed to when removed from civilized society.

But they’re Fae. So they’re worse.

The Fae in this book are not the lovely and benevolent Fae that are so often depicted in modern books and movies. They aren’t even the cold and indifferent Elves from LOTR, or the mostly mischievous and meddlesome (<——accidental alliteration!) with the odd malevolent creature tossed in to keep things interesting Fae that are most commonly found in PNR and UF these days.

Nope, these are nasty, cruel, and calculating Fae. Self-serving Fae. Murderous b/c it’s FUN Fae.

There are also several striking similarities between DREAMS AND SHADOWS and Thomas Harris’s HANNIBAL LECTER series.


Personal Anecdotal Story Alert: RED DRAGON is single-handedly responsible for my refusal to ever watch scary movies again.

The same evening that I saw the movie, I woke up inexplicably in the middle of the night (and when I say, “inexplicably,” I mean, “b/c the movie was HELLISHLY creepy, and I wasn’t sleeping soundly anyway”), and in that mostly incoherent, but still managing to process some thought state, I registered that I couldn’t move my arm b/c it was asleep . . . But when I went to move it with my other arm, all I felt was cold, limp weight, so I FREAKED OUT, and tried to throw “it” across the room.

Tried to throw. My own arm. Across the room.

B/c it wasn’t my arm, you see. It was the arm of a dead person, and it was clearly in my bed b/c RED DRAGON guy was downstairs, and would come upstairs at any moment to make me “become.” (And if you don’t know what “the becoming” is . . . trust me, you don’t want to.)

True story. *facepalms self*

So when Ewan refers to the ceremony that will transform him from Changeling to full-blown Fairy as his “becoming,” I nearly lost my mind.

Then a few chapters later when one of the most feared fairies is described as skinning her victims alive:

“Then she’ll drape your skin outside over a tree branch until it dries to leather and then she’ll wear it as a belt so she can keep you close to her forever!”

So . . . yeah. Creeptastic.

Add to that the fact that I have only a very vague idea (that is quite possibly dead wrong) about what the Big Picture is, and well, in addition to liking your UF creepy and horrific, you’d also need to be very, very patient to enjoy this book. And I did. This kind of book isn’t my favorite, but it was still enjoyable. But a lot of people aren’t okay with having WTF?! plastered across their face the entire time they’re reading a book. And some of the people that are (like me), stop being okay when lots of pertinent information isn’t revealed in that last 10-15%. Oh, the bare bones is revealed over the course of the book: Colby = good, Fae = bad, etc., but a clear course of action to accomplish an obvious objective? Not by a long shot.

And so, fair reader, I leave the decision in your hands. *cue ominous music* Choose wisely . . .
Profile Image for Hollowspine.
1,422 reviews31 followers
April 5, 2013
I did not love this book. And I've been trying to figure out why, aside from the obvious geek factor it seems like it should have been something I'd be in to, an every day world opened to magic, the grit of the streets hiding the sidhe and other creatures of the night.

The more I think about the book, however, the more I realize that I have no idea who the characters are and why I should care about them. Take Ewan (or should I say "the boy Ewan") although he is one of the main focuses of the book I feel like we barely knew him at all. His personality was dictated by his environment and out of his own control, he didn't seem to have a thought in his head which did not come from some other source. Throughout the story he was nothing more than a puppet, and I never got to understand why Colby (or should I say "the boy Colby" or "Colby Stevens" or "the man Colby Stevens") even liked Ewan. He saved Ewan when they were kids after having met once. That makes them 'best friends forever?'

Colby, the main character of the novel, was the same. I got no sense of reason backing up his actions. He seemed to have no personality besides his description as a weirdo who had red hair (which was mentioned twice in one sentence). The women in the novel were either pathetic, more pathetic or demons from hell. All of whom were constructed out of cardboard.

I felt like this was one of these books where fate and plot mattered more than characterization and detail, which is not something I like. The characters, especially women, were just world-filler, not important in the least except to move the plot along. Taking the plot over substance and adding to it the annoying presence of the obviously geeky, overly male, author and the book was a bit of a flop for me. The tone, the dialog, the continued use throughout the story of 'the boy' in front of the names or full names of his two main characters really took me out of the story, reminding me constantly that the author was there, delighting in himself and the world he created.

A comparable book with similar elements only done right is The War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. If you want to read about real Seelie rock music read it, if you want to read about a real Sidhe war read it, if you want to care about what happens to the characters read it. If you are a girl and want a book that doesn't relegate you to the role of dopey woman, doomed lover, or succubus read it.
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 45 books128k followers
November 1, 2014
This was like a really spooky Harry Potter tale. Quite bleak and dark, but really interesting. Two lead boys, set in Austin. I had a hard time rooting for the main characters but the world building was great and very eerie/spooky settings. A screenwriter wrote it, so it's probably gonna be a TV series, it's definitely laid out like one! Good for spooky urban fantasy enthusiasts.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
November 15, 2019
I think I came into this with high hopes only because I knew the writer from the Doctor Strange movie and having really enjoyed Sea of Rust, but nothing quite prepared me for a full-out novel of the Sidhe. The fae folk. Changelings, a nasty Tithe, and the tricksy Coyote.

Oh, and let's not forget the other main story. Young Coby and his Jinn.

This is a very atmospheric and darkly delicious novel that really gives us the heave-ho into the whole storyline of poorly thought-out wishes, curses, and the kinds of monsters that live within all of us.

And the good intentions that lead soooo many people down the road to hell.

I loved this. It's right up your alley if you love Gaiman and Cat Valente. Dark, mythological, and as twisty as you like.

I don't think there's a single character in this novel that isn't a victim of his or her own hubris. And yet it always charms us, leads us to wonder and discovery, plays with us the way chaos magic always plays with us, and then sets us back down gently amid a field of gore, telling us that we'll be all right.

Or will we?

*tips his red cap upon his head, lets a little moisture drip upon his finger*

Yes, I think we will be all right.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,921 reviews3,402 followers
November 15, 2019
This is a modern fairytale. A fairytale that incorporates tropes and motives well-known to any lover of folktales and myths. And yet it has that little extra that makes you not forget the familiarity of the tale, but which makes you recognize it like a long-missed friend or relative finally coming for a visit.

Set in Austin, Texas, in the here and now, we start with a love as pure as freshly fallen snow. The only problem is that such things are fragile and never last. In this case, it's not the two humans in love that make each other miserable, no. The fairies kidnap the couple's child, replacing it with one of their own, a changeling. Thus, little Ewan ends up in the Limestone Kingdom.
A couple of years later or at the very same time, young Colby meets a Jinn while playing outside and wishes to be shown everything. But as innocent as a child's wish can be, Yasher (the afore-mentioned Jinn) has his own reasons for granting wishes in the first place and a past as heartbreaking as any of the ancient tragedies.
When the two boys meet, they form a friendship that has the potential to shatter the two worlds. A friendship that promises rivers of blood.

I liked that most chapters were constructed as if they were their very own miniature fairytales that either tied back into previous ones or came together with others as new pieces in the mosaic that showed this colourful gateway between the worlds. We thus got glimpses at all kinds of fairies and their kingdom, drank with fallen angels, looked over the shoulder of weapons-forging dwarves, and learned a lot about the nature of desire, selflessness and cunning.

The writing style in this blew me away. I LOVE fairytales and have read my fair share - from the classics to modern renditions - but only very few authors manage to strike that special tone a TRUE fairytale has. One that resonates with the reader like a beautiful melody. One that makes you feel the magic and sucks you in.
So far, the master (or, rather, mistress) of the modern fairytale genre is Catherynne M. Valente and while C. Robert Cargill has not been able to unseat her, he is worthy to be at her court, mesmerizing readers with the worldbuilding, the breathtaking action, the soul-shattering fates and clever twists.

Don't think that when I'm talking about fairytales I'm referring to the lovey-dovey cutsey version the Disney company has created. They might have their place in our culture but those aren't actually fairytales. Actual fairytales are dark, the stakes always high, the enemies vast and powerful and you are tricked at every turn. This is exactly such a story. It will make you rage and cry and tear your hair out. And it will still keep you in its thrall, leading you down the road to hell that is paved with good intentions because it is beautifully atmospheric and teaches you the hard lessons. Whether you want to learn them or not.
Profile Image for Liz .
384 reviews76 followers
March 20, 2013
First off, I want to say the positives first before I go into everything that went wrong with this book.

The Positives
1. One of the main characters is named Ewan...after Ewan McGregor the actor. He is so named because one of his parent's favorite nights was when they saw Trainspotting. This made me extremely happy since I am a fan of Mr. McGregor.

2. The writing is descriptive, which is nice. It does paint a fine picture in a person's head. The writing isn't what is bad with this book, but there are ways the author could have written this story better.

That's pretty much it.

The negatives

Oh boy, where to begin?

First off all, when marketing a new book publishers should be extremely careful how they compare authors to other authors. This book was billed as something a fan of Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, and Erin Morgenstern (among others) would like.

Let's put it this way the author in no way had any of the subtlety or ability to weave a tale like the authors mentioned (well I haven't read Lev Grossman, but I have read Neil and Erin). He was way too forceful with the themes of the book. In writing the idea of "show versus tell" is normally repeated when describing events or characters, but a little known fact is when it comes to themes and ideas. Authors should be able to weave the themes throughout the novel without hitting a person on the head with it. In those situations, a book becomes extremely preachy. Sometimes, this isn't that badly done (Harper Lee in "To Kill a Mockingbird). It can be pleasant, if the characters are pleasant. In this case it wasn't. It was too preachy, too self-indulgent with philosophy (and I like philosophy by the way, but the author could have been a bit more subtle and artful in his presentation of it), and extremely dull given its fantastic nature.

I had pretty high hopes of this book going back to the roots of urban fantasy. I was hoping of a harkening back to the days of Borderland series, Charles De Lint, Neil Gaiman's (Sandman or Neverwhere), and Emma Bull (War for the Oaks) who all were kind of the forefront of the genre (especially Ms. Bull). However, the novel by Mr. Cargill was nowhere near what it could have been.

Besides being way to obvious with its themes and with what you are supposed to take away from reading this book (and being pretty pretentious about it too) the characters were not that great at all.

Ewan might be named after an actor I like, but in no way does that mean I like him. He's taken away from his family by faeries, grows up as one of them as a tithe, and then grows up and becomes a third-rate musician in Austin because of certain events. He's extremely naive when he is growing up, even if he is a child. He likes the prettiest faerie, who happens to like him back (what a surprise 0__0) When he is an adult, he is still pretty naive and dull. Even with certain events happening in the book, one can't feel really that sorry for him. You're only sorry that he got taken away from his parents (who, and I won't say why, where probably the most interesting characters later on in the book--even if they are screwed up).

Colby, the other main protagonist, starts off as a likeable enough character as a kid. Although, he is too naive about his mother and her habits. Although, once he meets Yashar things quickly go down hill. He wishes Yashar (who is a djinn--which can be thought off as a genie without the lamp) to show him the world beyond the veil (a.k.a everything magical). Yashar refuses at first, but then relents because Yashar knows for him to stay alive he needs Colby to believe in him.

The problem with Colby is, unlike Ewan's innocence, is that he quickly becomes unbelievable once he meets Yashar. He meets Ewan (and they become best buds in a moment's notice--I mean come on how realistic is that?) and the girl he likes, Mallaih (pronounced Molly) and they play tag. Then Colby finds out the truth about Ewan and puts his life into danger to save him, becoming a sorcerer by wishing Yashar to make him so. So, you put your life on the line for someone you've known for less than a few hours? Oh please...

Anyways, then there is the character of Ewan's doppelganger double who is a stillborn faeries and becomes a changeling that nobody likes. So he harbors a dislike for Ewan because Ewan is perfect and he is not. Normally, I like characters like this to have depth and he has absolutely no depth to him. He's a one tracked mind and does not change throughout the entire story. Neither do the other characters for that matter, even Colby who's whole worldview has changed.

I can't say anything bad about the plotting, which actually stands to reason to be a better part of the novel. However, there are problems with the pacing (especially in the beginning to the middle, and even parts of the end). This is a problem because most of the time I read fantasies pretty quickly, and this one I felt like I had to make myself finish it. There were parts where I was pretty sure I wanted to get rid of the book and to not finish it. I am happy I finished it, but not because I liked it--just so I could say I did.

The mythology, if one is not new to the genre, is nothing new by bringing in a lot of folklore both from English/Scottish/Welsh and Native American (with Coyote)...and it can't be supernatural without angels (which really did he even add anything to the story? Don't try to throw everything together if it isn't going to advance the story). I didn't really like how after everytime a type of faeries was mentioned there would be a whole chapter of dumping information on the reader about that particular faerie. If someone is knew to the genre they might like this, but if not it's a roll your eyes moment because it's a lot of info dumping. Just like the dumping of paragraph after paragraph of philosophical ramblings by certain characters.

I also don't like how much in the beginning the author was trying to paint a "fairy-tale" sort of picture, which is really annoying since you know from the blurb this isn't going to end well. Don't try to rip off the Grimms unless you can do it with style, which is where Mr. Cargill fails.

Now, this might only be me and my idiosyncratic tendencies, but I wouldn't recommend this book to fans of urban fantasy only because there are much, MUCH better books out there. Save your money for Mr. Gaiman's new book coming out in June or on Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" which has a better atmosphere. Or better yet, read "War for the Oaks" by Emma Bull for a great faerie urban fantasy.

I also thought this book was excessively violent, and I don't mind violence but it needs a good reason. Anyways, not one of the best urban fantasy books I've ever read. Also, this was a complete let down for me.

Profile Image for Loren Dearborn.
6 reviews1 follower
March 15, 2013
Comparing this novel to anything written by Neil Gaiman just sets you up for disappointment. Yes, the novel deals with fairy tale elements, as many of Gaiman's stories do, but this novel lacks all the delicacy and beauty of language that fans of Gaiman have come to expect. While there are some interesting characters and ideas in Dreams and Shadows, it falls far short of the high hopes one gets when hearing it compared to something Gaiman might have written.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
February 3, 2018
Fairies, changelings, angels, djinni, and Coyote the trickster, at times it's a bit of character jumble. Improves when the author chooses a couple or three to flesh out.
Profile Image for Christal.
936 reviews69 followers
February 21, 2013
See this review and others like it at BadassBookReviews.com!

Dreams and Shadows was a surprisingly complex novel. What starts as a twisted fairytale becomes a story about one young man realizing his destiny and changing the fabric of the world. This is definitely adult fiction as it is filled with violence and death, but at its heart, it’s about growing up and how the fantasies we cling to break down as we experience the real world.

The story alternates between multiple viewpoints, most notably Colby, Ewan, and Knocks, but everything weaves together to form one surprising tale. Everything that happens drives the plot towards its eventual end, no matter how small the outcome seems. The narrative voice was quite lyrical and it is evident that C. Robert Cargill has a way with words. The prose flows like a babbling brook making you smile with its fairyland imagery and wince when you hit the small pebbles of reality. It was beautiful to read.

It is hard to talk much about the characters because I don't want to give anything away; it is best to go into this novel completely unspoiled. The cast of characters is very large and each one is distinctive and has their own role to play. Colby begins as a young boy and ends up a very disenchanted young man. I absolutely loved him. I thought he was a wonderful character and I bought in to everything he had to do to survive, no matter if I necessarily agreed or not. I would love to read more about him, but the way this story ended felt right. We don't need to know what he goes on to do; it was more important for us to see how he became who he is. Ewan was pretty much the pivot point of the story. I think things would have been very different if another child had been chosen in his place. His story was very tragic despite his good temperament and he just couldn't seem to catch a break. I am glad that he at least had Colby as a friend and experienced love in the end. Knocks was a horrible, despicable character and even though sometimes I felt a little pity so him, it was soon dashed by one action or another.

Working more behind the scence, Yashar the djinn and Coyote the trickster fae were both powerful in their own way. Yashar and Colby complimented one another and I hope they find what they are seeking on their journeys. Coyote lived up to his name, his entire plan not being revealed until the final pages. The other supporting characters were all vibrant and wonderfully developed as well. They populated this literary landscape with mirth, sadness, hate, love, and everything in between.

Though this tale is very dark, violent, and heartbreaking it is also touching and emotional. Even through the sad times, I could not put this book down. Good, bad, right, wrong, everything becomes topsy-turvy in this book and you just have to hang on for the entire ride. I highly recommend this unique and creative novel, not only to readers of epic fantasy, but for anyone who wonders what other worlds might be hiding outside of our own.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Voyager for providing an ARC copy of this book!
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews64 followers
July 19, 2013
When I learned that there was a modern faerie story set in Austin, TX, I was there. I love faeries and I love my former home. I certainly enjoyed reading DREAMS AND SHADOWS. It was much more fast-paced than I expected. Also, it centered around the Tithe, which is always a good bit of mythology to play with.

While DREAMS AND SHADOWS was an entertaining novel, it could be better written. Now, it's probably paling in comparison to the other adult fantasy novels I've read recently, all of which were masterful. C. Robert Cargill's writing isn't bad, but it doesn't invite one to linger. I don't remember any clever turns of phrase or particularly memorable images. His prose went in one ear and out the other.

The characters aren't well developed. Several figures exist just to give pseudo-philosophical speeches. Now, I don't think we're expected to buy into those speeches entirely. They tend to be given by untrustworthy or biased characters. But the main character seems to buy into them, which is kind of lame. (The main character being Colby. He and Ewan are given equal billing in the blurb, but it's much more Colby's story.) Speaking of Ewan, he more often resembles a plot device than a co-protagonist. He's an object of desire or loathing, but rarely someone whose actions move the plot along. Knocks, the antagonist, is given zero billing, but I finished the novel knowing a lot more about what made him tick than Ewan.

The first two hundred or so pages are about Colby, Ewan, Knocks, and Mallaidh (a female faerie) as children. They eventually all meet on a night that sets the course for their future lives. It is Colby's coming of age story and the other three are caught within it, even though none of the four know it.

Going back to the whole faeries in Austin thing . . . it doesn't quite work. There's a kitchen sink of fantasy creatures with no explanation of why those creatures are all together or how they happened to end up in Hill Country. Almost every other chapter contains an excerpt from an ersatz academic text explaining the mythology, but there's just as much left unexplained. C. Robert Cargill never really puts his own spin on the mythology and just lets the rules crop up when they're plot relevant, often to the detriment of the protagonists.

Perhaps the best tragedy in DREAMS AND SHADOWS is the opening, a nasty tragic vignette about how Ewan came to be raised by the faeries. Much of the darkness in the latter half of the novel is more miserable than fantastic. I much preferred the first half to the second.

DREAMS AND SHADOWS isn't a bad novel. It's an extremely readable one that I expect will satisfy many fantasy fans. But despite its thick spine, it's a shallow novel. There's talent there, but Cargill isn't a rock star yet.
Profile Image for Victoria Yang.
199 reviews43 followers
March 17, 2013
I’ve been mulling this book over in my head for a few hours now, trying to decide whether I like the book, or whether it is simply ‘okay’. After some deliberation, I’ve settled on the 2/5 rating.

This book is divided into two parts, and follows two protagonists, Colby and Ewan (yes, like Ewan McGregor). Commencing the unfulfilled promise of a fairy tale with “once upon a time”, the author quickly snatches the reader’s attention by ruthlessly shattering a perfect family. This is the beginning of Ewan’s story, and is, in my opinion, the best chapter in the book. Then, eight-year-old Colby is introduced as an overly curious, precocious child largely ignored by his mother. He meets Yashar, a cursed djinn, who grants him a wish. Little Colby does a Phaëton and makes a wish that will doom him to a terrible fate that he is unable to yet perceive. He wishes to be able to see the supernatural. The focus of this book is on the supernatural creatures that are very unpleasant (and do most of the slasher film-style killings). Colby’s naïve desire to see everything that the supernatural has to offer leads him to the Limestone Kingdom, where he meets young Ewan, who is now living amongst the fairies. Other significant characters worthy of mention are Mallaidh, a beautiful young fairy in love with her ‘hero’, Ewan, and Knocks, the vicious changeling who has dedicated his bitter life to ruining Ewan. Throughout the rest of the book, we see the consequences of Colby’s choice play out, and see that fate and the ‘nature of things’ can never be defeated.

Dreams and Shadows is a fantasy novel that is most certainly not intended for young readers. The author – who was the screenwriter for the horror film Sinister – writes scenes containing explicit goriness with a great deal of gusto. Hence, if descriptions of people getting sliced in half, smashed against walls, having their head shattered, and having their organs spew everywhere grosses you out, this book is definitely not for you. Although gory scenes can have their place, I felt that at times, the excessive violence did not play any significant role in providing description in scenes that strengthen the plot. For instance, in Part 1 (which I feel is the weaker half of the book), there are chapters pertaining to the slaughter of unfortunate characters in the wrong place at the wrong time. The characters who meet their untimely ends are undeveloped and unlikeable, so their deaths have little meaning to the reader. In general, I never connected with any of the characters (except for Ewan’s mother at the beginning of the book), which prevented me from being fully invested in the plot.

In terms of nature vs. nurture, this book takes the ‘nature’ side of the argument to the extreme. The fairies all feed on different things – not necessarily flesh. Certain types of fairies feed off of things like fear and agony; others such as the ‘redcaps’ wear a woolen cap and must kill to keep the cap red with blood in order to maintain their power, and the ‘sidhe’ feed off of sexual energy. Most of the deaths in the book are justified because it is ‘within the nature’ of the fairies to feed and kill in horrible ways; the fairies have absolutely no control over these urges. Although I do know that this is a fantastical world, it still seems weird to me that a fairy can brutally murder someone (to feed), be extremely upset, then cry something along the lines of ‘why did you leave me, my love?’ and repeat this cycle over… and over… and over. The rules of Colby’s capabilities were also lost on me- I felt like I didn’t have a good grasp on what he could or could not do. Hence, his performances in the battle scenes often left me baffled. The background facts about other creatures are revealed in non-fiction textbook-styled chapters sandwiched between chapters of the actual story. Although they were occasionally interesting, they generally felt very formulaic in the sense that something would happen in the plot, and pause! What did we just see there? – sometimes even when characters in the plot just explained what happened. I felt like they interrupted the flow of the plot. I did enjoy, however, when the text was referenced within the plot itself.

Although I didn’t buy the romance between Mallaidh and Ewan, I thought that her Although I have difficulties understanding the nature of the fairies, I thought that a great moment in the book was when one of the main characters acknowledges that absurdity, and tries to use it as an argument against them.

I think what this book was missing was the necessary description to make the characters and their significance more fleshed out. I understood that Colby and Ewan were friends, but I had trouble feeling their relationship. I may simply be hard to please, but my lack of belief and investment in the story made me unable to connect to it- which is somewhat ironic considering the importance of the concept of belief in the story itself. To add, I didn't feel that this book was comparable to the works of Neil Gaiman- everything from the the prose style to the use of imagery and tone felt quite different. All in all, I did finish the book, and enjoyed some aspects of it- but I won't be rereading it or picking up the sequel.

Entertainment value: 3/5
Writing quality/style: 2/5
Readability: 2/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 1.5/5
Plot: 3/5

I received an ARC of this through the Goodreads First Reads program. This has not influenced my opinions about the book in any way.

Review edited 3/17/13
Profile Image for The Girl with the Sagittarius Tattoo.
2,127 reviews269 followers
September 7, 2022
A really terrific old skool faerie tale. I can't wait to read the rest!

As young children, Colby and Ewan became best friends. Colby, in the company of a Djinn, was exploring the Limestone Kingdom as part of his wish to see the supernatural world. Ewan, a human child swapped for a changeling as a baby, was playing there. Their friendship has a deeply portentous future, if the trickster Coyote has anything to say about it. And he does.

I loved all the characters - Colby and Ewan, but also Molly and even Nox - especially Nox as a child. This book called to mind the pantheon of American Gods, with everything from selkies to the Wild Hunt to fallen angels and, of course, a genie. But what puts this book over the top is the dark and bittersweet tale that unfolds, based on the truism that happiness is not guaranteed - even with the best intentions. In this aspect, the tale is very like Tithe by Holly Black.

I loved it, and I'll definitely be back for more soon.
Profile Image for David.
29 reviews42 followers
April 18, 2014
4.5 Stars I loved this story.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Be careful what you wish for.” And that saying seemed to be the overall theme of this book.

The story and plot were awesome, but the kicker was the prose. The lyrical writing style of the author was magnificent. There are moments of exposition that were better than some of the action.

From the onset this book was like “The Neverending Story” or “The Princess Bride” only with a “Twlight Zone” twist.

I felt like it was being told to me by some wise old relative, except that relative was a little sick in the head and forgot that I was a young kid and still wanted to be able to close my eyes or ever sleep again when the story was done. Like a fairy tale with an underlying tone of horror.
IT WAS AWESOME! This was like having Steven King read a collaborative bedtime story written by Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton, and Patrick Rothfuss, but King was allowed to ad-lib horror in the interludes. You know, just to keep it interesting and make sure that you never sleep again.

We start off with a beautiful love story that ends in tragedy. That tragedy causes most of the conflict and plot of the whole book. In addition to this, in another plot thread, we meet a young boy named Colby who just wants a little adventure in the way all eight year old boys do. Colby meets a djinn (the mythological creature akin to a genie not an ifrit) while walking through the woods near his home and has his life changed forever. Both Cody and the djinn want to use each other, but neither has any clue the harm they will cause by doing so.

From here we watch as the offspring from the young couple introduced at the beginning and the young boy Colby encounter each other and grow up. We meet all kinds of mythological creatures and fey, but theses fey are nothing like the beautiful enigmas of Urban Fantasy, or the flighty Seelie creatures told in children’s fantasy. They’re predators, victims to their own desires and hunger, and sooo interesting and dark. Even the “good” ones.

The author intersperses interludes of text on faeries that explain a little of the fantastical creatures that are featured in the next chapter. This works well, because it gives insight to the characters without taking away from the pace or plot of the story.

The characterization of the story was very good. I liked some of the secondary character as much if not more than the main characters. Colby’s transition to adulthood and the impact his choices had on him was one of the aspects of the novel that appealed to me the most in the story. Colby is a very changed man from the child described at the beginning of the book.

And Coyote! He was such a great character. He stole the show of this novel, and was much better than how I have seen him portrayed in most adult novels. Instead of being some vaudeville showman, or crafty swindler, he was a true manipulator.

I enjoyed every aspect of this story. There is a part in the middle where some aspects are being set up that slow it down more than I like, and I would have liked to see more semi cosmic power from one of our other characters and the action could have been longer. I felt that the culminating action was really sidelined to skip to the end, and wished it was as good as some of the other parts.

The reviews of this vary greatly, which usually means to me that it’s probably a good read (see what I did there). Polarizing opinions attract me much more than when everyone is in total agreement. I think some of the bad reviews seem to be more offended by the Neil Gaiman comparisons than the actually quality of the book. The lyrical quality of the prose is easy to compare to Gaiman because he’s the scale with which many people, myself included, have to measure such talent. I believe that Cargill did an outstanding job with this one, and look forward to reading more from him.

I recommend this book to you if you want to see what all the fuss is about or just want to read a good story. It’s definitely a really good story. At the least, it’ll remind you to be careful what you wish for.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
2,971 reviews1,180 followers
January 23, 2015
This books does remind me of Neil Gaiman's novels, and I'm saying it in a good way. The fairy lore in the story is finely done, and the plot twists can keep you turning pages till the end. The friendship among the three main characters is finely done as well. Although I must complain that one of the MCs' awesome magical power and the reason why the faeries are all so fearful of him is never clearly explained. =__=
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
February 10, 2017
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: Library Checkout

‘If you remember one thing, even above remembering me, remember that there is not a monster dreamt that hasn’t walked withing the soul of man.’

Dreams and Shadows tells the tale of two young boys: Ewan, who was stolen from his family by fairies when he was a baby, and Colby, who befriended a djinn that granted wishes which changed his life forever. The fates of both become entwined the second they meet and a battle between magical forces ensues.

This could have honestly been a disastrous affair what with the strange mixture of fairies and changelings, angels and the Devil, sorcerers and genies, and the list goes on. But it’s far from a disaster. This was an absolute delight and the exact type of fantasy that I yearn for. I have to make note that despite the inclusion of angels and the Devil this is far from religious and never digs in deep to that aspect; they were just supporting characters of a sort. The characters were fictitious and fanciful but managed to be extremely well-crafted and developed. The male characters were at the very least. It didn’t occur to me until later that the female characters all seemed to be incredibly weak and only described in terms of their looks with the one exception to that statement being Ewan’s scary-as-hell mother. All in all, it’s easy to overlook because of the thrilling plot.

My least favorite aspect of the book ended up being my favorite. In addition to the story being told from three separate points of view, there are excerpts from a book titled ‘A Chronicle of the Dreamfolk’ by a Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D. They are surprisingly informative pieces on the factual aspects of this fantasy world but it’s initially unclear as to why they’re included. It’s a vital piece of the puzzle that becomes clear late in the novel so don’t skip these sections.

Dreams and Shadows is a story full of magic and mystery and outlandish horror. I so enjoyed the rawness and twisted darkness of this tale and the unique and unusual world-building that fortunately isn’t lacking in detail. Dreams and Shadows possessed a plot with room to grow and is one instance where I’m thankful for it being a series. Queen of the Dark Things is the next installment which is due out in mid-2014. I cannot wait.
Profile Image for Jon.
403 reviews7 followers
November 15, 2014
Wow, wow, wow. If this is what I have to look forward to as a Harper Voyager Super Reader, man, I have hit the jackpot. Harper Voyager can keep sending me free books in return for reviews, because this one was fantastic.

SO! This book was one of my first batch as a HVSR, and it's only random chance that I read it before any of the others. Again, wow. The jacket blurb compares it to Gaiman, and that is a -very- apt comparison. Folklore and Magic blended seamlessly with action and a flowing plot, this man is an instant master.

Some books are good only for their character development, some for their plot, but some hit a homerun and are a beautiful blend of imagery and truth. Cargill drops truths throughout this book that stick in your head and have you thinking about them long after you've turned the page.

For example:

"There is no place in the universe quite like the mind of an eight-year-old boy. Describing a boy at play to someone who has never been a little boy at play is nigh impossible. One can detail each motion and encounter, but it doesn't make a lick of sense to anyone but the 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.

It's kind of like that, only breathless and without spaces between each word. At one hundred miles per hour."

Or, another:

"When you find a soul as pure and honest as yours--when you find someone whose arms fit perfectly around you and who chases the rest of the world away when they do--you grab on with both hands and you don't let go. If you tell me you want me, Ewan, I'll be yours until the end of your days. And when those days are through, I'll cross time and space to find you again. Time and again. And we'll be together forever, time and space be damned."

Finally, and this is a big one, but it sealed the deal and made me a fan for life:

"Do you know the difference between a good man and a great man? A good man looks around at his brothers, sees their ignorance, finds himself horrified by it, and sets out to educate them. A great man instead finds himself elated by realizing that his brothers will never know any better, using it to his advantage to forge an army of the ignorant, fighting to leave the world a better place. Ignorance is the only one truly unstoppable force in this world. And the only difference between a despot and a founding father is that the founding father convinces you that everything he does was your idea to begin with and that he was acting at your behest all along. Yes, people are sheep. Big deal. You need to stop trying to educate the sheep and instead just steer the herd.

No one wants to admit that they're not smart enough to understand what's going on, so they create such elaborate fictions to convince themselves otherwise. Fairies are the construct of man and bear with them both his arrogance and his ignorance. You look at what I've done and you think this is about tormenting your friend. If I told you now that the blood about to be spilled would change the world as you know it, would you deign to stop it? Would you believe me at all?"

Good authors entertain you. Great authors challenge the way you think. Cargill is a great author.

Profile Image for Michael.
63 reviews3 followers
March 10, 2013
Remember when you were six years old and you were sitting on the cold, high table in the doctor's office and the doctor came up to you with a big, insincere-looking smile, scrunched down to your level, and then asked, with greatly exaggerated inflections, "So, how are we doing today?"

That's how C. Robert Cargill sounds in most of his first novel, "Dreams and Shadows." He's talking down to you and he's speaking in kiddie language because that's how he thinks fairy tales are supposed to sound. People who actually write for kids know how to communicate in simple and charming language without sounding like they think kids are idiots; Cargill, not so much.

Cargill's annoying narrative style is not the novel's only problem, but it's bad enough that I kept wanting to give up reading. The main reason I finished the book was that I had promised to review it.

The next biggest problem is that the book has so little clear direction. The reader is constantly wondering "Why are you telling me this?" and "Where is this going?" Why is the djinn approaching Colby? (We never really find out.) Why won't Colby ever see his mother again? (Ditto.) Why does the djinn sound like he has some big plan for Colby? (Ditto.) Why do we need to see a bunch of faeries murder a bunch of campers? (Just to show that they're really mean, I think.) Why is Coyote screwing around with these kids? (We do find out, but not until the novel is almost over.)

On the plus side, although Cargill can be patronizing and precious at times, and a tedious sentimental moralist at other times, there are some very good moments when he's neither lecturing nor trying to be cute. His description of Ewan's musical performance after Ewan meets "Nora" is possibly the best passage of its kind that I've seen in fiction. He does an admirable job of showing us how thoroughly and deeply Knocks hates Ewan. (It's a bit sad, because Ewan himself is such a thin nothing of a character.)

Unfortunately, there's a lot more irritation and tedium than wonder in this book. Not recommended. Do not buy this book before reading a good chunk of it in a bookstore or online.
Profile Image for Sub_zero.
698 reviews275 followers
June 12, 2015
La primera novela del escritor norteamericano C. Robert Cargill podría calificarse como un extraño híbrido entre young adult, urban fantasy y las historias adscritas a la tradición feérica explotada por autores como Jack Vance. Por momentos brillante, por momentos perturbadora, pero siempre rodeada por un interesante halo de misterio, fatalidad y magia, resultado de comprimir en un solo volumen una gran cantidad de mitos, folclore y leyendas urbanas provenientes de varias culturas, Sueños y sombras ofrece al lector una experiencia tan heterogénea como los diversos elementos que la componen. Por un lado, la historia que subyace bajo todo ese aglutinado de referencias sobrenaturales es un oscuro -pero entrañable- cuento protagonizado por dos niños que acceden a una esfera paranormal poblada por genios traicioneros, hadas obsesionadas con la maternidad y demonios vengativos (entre otros) y cuyas aventuras en dicho reino, así como sus consecuencias, les acompañarán en su entrada a la edad adulta. Sin embargo, la poca profundidad de los personajes o la constante repetición de ciertos recursos y elementos a lo largo de la novela transmiten una sensación de estiramiento innecesario que se podría haber solventado con un considerable recorte en el número de páginas. Así pues, aunque Cargill no consigue pulir su historia como para que resplandezca en todo momento, Sueños y sombras rebosa carácter, imaginación y buenas ideas; un estupendo caldo de cultivo por el que merece la pena no perderle la pista a este prometedor autor.
Profile Image for Jen.
608 reviews261 followers
March 20, 2013
I loved Dreams and Shadows. I need to start reading more fantasy. It is always the imaginative reads that blow me away. I must have highlighted and wrote things down about a bajillion times while reading Dreams and Shadows, but I'm still having trouble finding the right words to describe all of my emotions toward this book.

Dreams and Shadows had a beautiful beginning that turned very dark very fast. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt when I laid my head down to sleep that first night I was going to have nightmares about my children. And I did.

There were beautiful moments of childhood innocence, friendship, and what it's like to grow older, but most of Dreams and Shadows remained a pretty dark read. There were a lot of supernatural creatures in this book: fairies, goblins, djinn, angels, tricksters, but you don't need to be a regular reader of folklore to love Dreams and Shadows. A lot of the fairy creatures were new to me, and it was the story of Colby and Ewan - the two human boys who visited the Limestone Kingdom - that had me glued to the pages.

If you love dark, imaginative reads, I highly, highly recommend Dreams and Shadows. It will easily be one of my favorite reads of the year.
Profile Image for J.W. Griebel.
Author 2 books5 followers
February 28, 2013
Rating: 2.0 stars

While reading "Dreams and Shadows," I pictured this GIF over and over again:


Why? I will get to that shortly. But first, a brief message:

I was not aware that C. Robert Cargill was the writer behind the movie "Sinister" when I pre-ordered this novel. If I had been, I most likely would not have given this book a chance, as the movie was terrible. I would also like to note that claiming a writer is part Neil Gaiman and part William S. Burroughs on the blurb of the dust jacket flap means I am going to judge the author's merits accordingly. I am looking at you, HarperCollins. You have disappointed me for the last time.

Now I've said all that, I can get to the meat of the review:

This novel was a train wreck. Cargill attempted to jump from trope to trope with the skill that only certain film makers have, but in the end he tripped on a rope and face dived and the whole thing came tumbling down in a mess of shit on his head. Hence the GIF.

There are pages at a time where the language reads much like a children's novel, and then suddenly Cargill says "Fuck that" and starts throwing down profanity, slashing the pages to bits with fervor. I am not against profanity. I say "fuck" more than is healthy for a man my age. However I believe that profanity, like all language, should be used with purpose. There was hardly ever purpose behind Cargill's usages. It was also very easy to tell that Cargill's editors had a field day sprucing up his prose with their dolefully lacking ghost-writing skills--in some spots it is so elementary and pathetic that you wonder if a high school student wrote it, while in others it looks to have been copied and rearranged from a third-rate Gaiman knock-off novel.

In "Dreams and Shadows," you will read almost 200 pages before any plot develops. And then the plot that does develop is so thin you couldn't use it to wipe your ass. The characters are much the same; they're shiny surfaces, with nothing beneath to make you care. As it stands, eliminating the gaudy and overly-loving blurb, the premise reveals itself to be the following (SPOILERS!!!):

A boy (Ewan) and a changeling (I fogrot his name, so I'll call him Nickle Fickle) get switched, because the changeling is an abomination. Nickle Fickle forces his new parents to kill themselves, effectively coming back to _______ (Cargill never really tells us where). Then, out of nowhere, Hell opens up (don't know how, apparently Cargill couldn't be bothered to explain) and Ewan's dead mother comes back and kills the Nickle Fickle's new mother, for apparently no reason at all. Oh, and while this is happening, the faeries are slaughtering campers in the woods in utmost B-Movie fashion, because fuck explanations and fuck reasoning. Then, a bunch more shit happens with Hell and faeries, which would be really cool if it had any point and developed any further.
Oh, and some little boy character we forget about (see, he was so unimportant I forgot to mention him) suddenly appears and saves Ewan. Nickle Fickle is all pissed off and full of angst and then more stuff happens, none of which furthers the non-existent plot.

And while you are trying to puzzle out why everything is happening, and what point there is to any of it, struggling to see where the editor saw the slightest bit of cohesiveness, Cargill is punching you in the face with fake excerpts from a fake medical book literally every other chapter.

To be honest, I gave up after page 230. I still feel I held on too long.

I love stories that make you think. There is nothing better than a raw twist that leaves your mind screaming and your eyes burning as you try and speed up your reading pace to see it resolved. But there was no twist, no plot, nothing but a disjointed set of scenes that would not have even made a good set of flash cards.

There are too few hours in life to waste them reading bad books, and I have too many good books on my shelves waiting patiently for the attention they deserve to waste another moment turning the pages of "Dreams and Shadows." I applaud Cargill for the effort, but a few claps is all he will get from me.
Profile Image for Charlie.
797 reviews149 followers
April 17, 2017
I have seriously mixed feelings about this book. When I first started it I loved it, it was full of magic and adventure, it was everything I love. Unfortunately about half way through, it decided​ to skip ahead 10 years. I really hate it when books do this. Suddenly the character I knew as an adventurous boy is all grown up. He's miserable and boring and it made me miserable reading about him. The magical​ world I loved was gone and again I was bored stiff. I tried to finish it a few times but just couldn't get past more than a few pages at a time.

After putting this book on hold for quite a few years, I decided this weekend to try and finish some of the many books I had on hold.

So I gave this book another go, plowed through about 50 pages of boring and then it started to get interesting again. I ended up absolutely loving the ending. The last 20 or so pages were excellent.

So I loved this book, was throughly bored by it and loved it again. It was super confusing so I'm going to give it 3.75 stars.
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,158 reviews458 followers
March 22, 2014
*Genre* Urban Fantasy
*Rating* 4.0

*I received this book as part of the Harper Voyager Super Reader program. All thoughts are my own, and no monetary compensation was offered in return for reading this book.*

*My Thoughts*

"The sum of a man isn't the things he's done, it is the world he leaves behind." Quote from Fallen Angel Bertrand to Colby.

Dreams and Shadows is one of the better books that I have had the pleasure of reading this year (2014) and I thank Harper Voyager for sharing a copy of this book with me. Dreams and Shadows is a dark story filled with with action, violence, adventure, and has interesting and dangerous beings like fairies, djinn, changelings, and fallen angels who all make their homes in Austin, Texas the setting for this story.

The main characters of Dreams and Shadows are Colby Stevens, Ewan Thatcher, Yasher, Nixie Knocks, and Coyote but this is a character and plot driven story. Dreams and Shadows mostly follows Colby and Ewan, but it would not be the same without the interaction of Yasher, Knocks, and Coyote who obviously have their own agendas and paths they must follow.

You could say Dreams and Shadows mostly focuses on Colby's journey, and you wouldn't be wrong but you would be remiss in ignoring the background stories of Yashar and especially Knocks. It is Colby that ends up making some unusual choices that make him as powerful as any being in existence that leads to some consequences that he can't escape from. It is Colby who is given a choice at age 8 (wish) by Yasher to see all that is out there in the world without unknowing all that he learns. It is Colby who becomes so feared, and hated, that he only has one true friend he can count on, and that is Ewan who he rescues and watches over from the first time they ever meet.

For Ewan, he's taken away from his loving parents while a baby, and replaced by a changeling. He then grows up among the fairy and slowly becomes one even finding love with Mallaidh. He becomes known as the "Tithe Child" but I won't spoil what that truly means to you, and later ends up being saved by Colby who leads him back into the human world. Ewan's journey is a painful one to read about. He doesn't know who he really is, he's had the unfortunate destiny to be picked by the fairy, and he is truly hated by more than a few fairy including Knocks.

I made a comment while reading this book that I found the interaction between Ewan and Colby to be wonderful. It was about friendship, and not about mutual attraction or the need to jump into bed the first time they meet. It is about Colby's determination to keep Ewan safe from harm and understanding that they have forged a nearly unbreakable bond with their experiences. This story is proof that boys can be friends and bros, and writer's DON'T need to wade their way into situations where there is a need for same sex romances.

I think that readers will find Yashar and Coyote to be equally as entertaining, if not as dangerous as Colby. I think that readers will also enjoy the fact that these fairies are not your normal run of the mill Fae who are lovable and happy. Nope. They are dangerous. They kill humans and feed on emotions, and you don't really want to find yourself out in the middle of a forest when they are around.

I can only hope that Queen of the Dark Things, which releases May 13th 2014 by Harper Voyager, is just as awesome as Dreams and Shadows was. I can't wait to dive back into this world that just blows my mind and leaves me anxious to see what happens next.

Published February 26th 2013 by Harper Voyager (first published February 1st 2013)
Profile Image for Maya Panika.
Author 1 book70 followers
January 15, 2013
A modern day fairytale come urban fantasy set in both the solid, everyday world, and an un-seen, parallel place of supernatural creatures from a broad mix of folklores, who live, half-hidden, alongside the humans. It gets off to an explosive start, the opening is stark and tragic - though I found the childhood chapters less interesting than what followed. The childhood-in-fairyland story is fine in its way, but more conventional, less original, less intriguing than the unique vision of the second half. Everything warms up, gathers speed and takes on a whole new tone - much darker, more sinister, more thoroughly Gothic - when Ewan and Colby grow into teenagers, living divergent lives in the same town.

Gothic is the word that keeps coming back to me as I try to describe this tale; a dark and bloody streak of it runs through the narrative - it's not something I generally associate with a story set in Texas. The location, in Austin’s seediest bars and a mystic bookshop, certainly adds a dash of spice to this modern day tale of angels and demons that has more to do with the Brothers Grimm than anything by Disney. From start to finish, Dreams and Shadows is pretty raw and thoroughly gory – not one for the kiddies, for sure. The end appeared to be setting the scene for a new story. If this is the first in a series, I’m deeply sorry that the – for me - best character, doesn’t make it to the end.

In short, this a great book by a creative author I’ll be watching for sure. And - having felt so many parallels between this book and my own, I can’t resist a plug. If you enjoyed Dreams and Shadows, might I recommend Entanglement? I think you'll enjoy it.

Profile Image for Libby.
157 reviews11 followers
March 22, 2013
Wrote this as a comment but I guess it qualifies as my review -

This book was disappointing. I was pretty excited about it based on the blurb but comparing this book to the work of Gaiman or Del Toro is absurd. While there was a somewhat interesting premise it was poorly executed. The first half is entirely world building. It's disjointed and not very engaging. The second half does have a plot but its basically a mash up of a bunch of familiar story elements. I'm only going with two stars because there was enough of interest to finish but that's it. Compared to much of what I've read in the genre this is subpar. Frankly, I'm surprised it was picked up by this publisher. I'm guessing it was due to author reputation / popularity and not quality. I would expect this as a self-published or indie

For anyone interested in this type of Urban Fantasy pick up War for the Oaks by Emma Bull or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman instead
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,511 reviews454 followers
June 17, 2013
I liked this book before I even read it, just going by description, name and cover. It seemed...magical somehow. And, sure enough, it was. I'm not a huge fantasy fan, but this book was absolutely irresistable and thoroughly spellbinding from the very beginning. A good writer will tell you a story, a great writer will create a world and let you have a peak. Cargill definitely has the makings of a great writer, his style is cinematically vivid, which is understandable due to his background with film, but it shows a lot of promise of genuine literary quality. This book was a whole world, close enough to kiss to quote, yet hidden to the average eye. A world of fairies so fascinating, so detailed, so wild, so strange and amazing and violent and stunning. There are other magical/mythical creatures as well, with Cargill's unique twists on them. There is an epic story of friendship and of love and of destiny. There is so much in this book and about this book to love and enjoy. It's a really great adventure, a dark fairy tale for adults who don't confuse maturity with lack of imagination. And it's wide open for sequel, but it really doesn't need one. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for OpenBookSociety.com .
3,832 reviews116 followers
February 26, 2013
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Heidi

*Beware of Spoilers*

This book was such an interesting mix of things, I’m not even sure how to explain, but I will definitely give it my best attempt, which I hope will make sense.

This tale starts out with a wonderful little love story as we are ran through a little montage of how young Jared and Tiffany met, fell in love, got married, and went on to have a beautiful little boy that they named Ewan. But their lives are shattered when a fairy kidnaps their precious little boy and leaves a doppelganger changeling in his place. At first look, you would think it was Ewan, but his mother knew differently. But nobody believed her and just though she was losing it, which leads to her eventual suicide. Her husband then knew what the changeling was, but trying to get rid of it resulted in his own early demise.

This is a story about how the little events that happen can change the world forever; irrevocably.

Young Colby Stevens was playing alone one day when a djin shows up offering to grant him a wish. The wish of a young impressionable eight year old will end up changing the course of lives forever, even his own. He wishes to be able to see all the things that no mortal human can and for his djin to show him everything.

This wish leads them to the Limestone Kingdom, where the young Ewan has lived believing that he was going to become a fairy like the others around him. This is also where the changeling that replaced Ewan on that dreadful night lives after being abandoned countless times. Knocks has such a jealous hatred for Ewan that he vows to kill him one day. But when the day comes for Ewan to finally get his wish and join the ranks of the fairies, the ugly truth of why the fairies took him in the first place is revealed. And, young Colby will stop at nothing to save his new friend, unaware and uncaring of the consequences.

I absolutely LOVED the first chapter of this book. The young love of Tiffany and Jared Thatcher was sweet and innocent only to be ruined by the evil that we’ve all heard and read about. The legends of the fae stealing human babies and replacing them with an atrocity of their own. I found this part of the chapter to be powerful and all-consuming and making me want to read more. It showed that the author, C. Robert Cargill, really knows how to weave a captivating story and truly shows us why he’s had such a successful writing career, including movie screen writing, film critiques and a powerful web presence. But unfortunately for me, this book did not maintain this pace and didn’t live up to the expectations the awesome start of the story promised.

There are several informative chapters between the storytelling chapters that left me with mixed feelings. I enjoyed getting the extra back-story on the different creatures, but I found these chapters coming so frequently in the beginning, and being written in an academic textbook style, really hindered my ability to get absorbed in the story and making it a bit choppy overall, they were like a bucket of cold water waking you up from the fantasy you were immersed in. I was overjoyed when they started tapering off and I could really start understanding what was going on with the different characters.

And boy where there a lot of characters in this tale! I found so many secondary characters being introduced at the same time to be a bit confusing and I struggled to keep them all straight, especially the different caste of fairies and those with similar names such as Ruadhri and Rhiamon. It was a bit of a character overload.

But lets delve a little bit more into the main characters, shall we?

I think one of my favorites was actually, Colby’s djin, Yashar. He had a sordid past that left him with a curse on all wishes that he casts, dooming them all to terrible results. But if he quit granting them, he would die. I really enjoyed how he took young Colby under his wing and really became quite the father figure for him, one that stayed with him throughout his adulthood as well.

“You see, there was this man, and he was a good man; he worked hard and did everything to the best of his ability. All he desired was for the most beautiful woman in the kingdom to be his wife. Now this wasn’t all bad because she actually loved him too–very much so–but this vizier, he wanted her as well and not for so noble a cause as love.”

“What did he want her for?”

Yashar paused for a moment. “So that people could look at him and say, ‘He must be a great man to have such a beautiful wife.’”

“Oh. I thought he wanted her for sex,” said Colby, disappointed.”

Colby was a strong character in his own right. He had strong beliefs and a hero complex off his own, always trying to save Ewan from certain death. But his wish to see it all warped him in a way that he never expected, making him a bit cynical and keeping him from ever achieving true happiness.

Ewan was the naive and trusting friend in this story, never completely understanding the horrible fate that was dealt to him, and not even remembering the day his world collapsed, until he was older and the memories started resurfacing, due in part to Mallaidh coming back into his life. I never could decide if I liked this couple, always thinking how she’s going to hurt him in the end.

This book was divided into two parts. The first was about the characters, Colby, Ewan, and Knocks as children. The second part about them as young adults. I struggled a lot with the first part of the book, which also was broken up a lot more with the excerpt chapters from Dr. Thaddeus Ray’s books. But I didn’t find myself really getting into the story until the characters had grown up and matured a little. I did find myself enjoying the book at this point, but I just never could fall in love with the tale.

I think the author does have a gift with weaving stories and I look forward to seeing what else he can offer us in the future!

Profile Image for heidi.
315 reviews56 followers
Shelved as 'bored-with'
October 30, 2013
I can't. I just can't.

I have a friend who does slush reading for a horror magazine, and she says she categorically rejects stories by men that involve demon pregnancy or bad seed or demon baby stories, because they are usually horrifying in the wrong way. That's how I feel about the first five percent of this book.

First, it's a story of a weird and unnaturally good baby. Who is, of course, stolen by fairies and replaced by a changeling. The changeling is So Evil . After that CHARMING insight into post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis, we spin into a "scholarly article". The article is about where the Evil Changeling Babies come from, and it turns out that they are the products of spontaneous abortion/"stillbirth" in fairy mothers, and if the mother is sufficiently devastated, her sorrow will induce the child to come back to life, but as a monstrous creature that she then rejects.


Shall we count up the horrifying things there?
1) Implying that "well-behaved" infants are normal and never ever cry.
2) PPD demonization.
3) Adoption bullshit about "knowing your child in your heart".
4) Normalizing infanticide.
5) Hinky miscarriage/stillbirth stuff that I am too wound up about to talk about clearly.
6) Punishing infants for wanting love.

Six strikes and you're out, Mr. Cargill. I don't care how good the rest of the book is, you have lost me.
Profile Image for Diego Beaumont.
341 reviews571 followers
December 25, 2015
Una novela llena de fantasía y oscuridad donde los sueños y las pesadillas se hacen realidad. Me ha fascinado la ambientación y ese lado sucio, tan adulto que quita de un manotazo la inocencia a la que estamos habituados en los cuentos de hadas. Dos niños que se convierten en adultos vuelven a reencontrarse para saldar viejas deudas del pasado, cual pistoleros en una película trasnochada del Far West. ¡Sin duda una de mis lecturas favoritas del 2015!
Profile Image for BookishStitcher.
1,102 reviews46 followers
October 15, 2020
This was a really great start to a fantasy series. It had so many elements combining different elements of fantasy. There are fairies, angels, jinn, and wizards. I will definitely be reading the next.
Profile Image for Rich Stoehr.
228 reviews43 followers
March 19, 2013
I attended a jazz concert while I was reading Dreams and Shadows and it reminded me of the book - there were a lot of notes, some beautiful, some dissonant, but they didn't always make sense when played together.

Dreams and Shadows is ambitious in its scope. It opens on a tragedy - a loving couple whose infant child is kidnapped and replaced with a changeling, a twisted shadow of the human baby. Years later, a different child meets and befriends a djinn and embarks on a journey to see all the magic the world has to offer. From these two beginnings, a story of friendships and rivalries and violence and love unfolds.

And here's where it gets complicated.

From Ewan, the kidnapped child now living in the fairy realm, to Knocks, the changeling tasked with replacing him and now rejected by both humans and fairies, to Colby, the child-turned-sorcerer who seeks to protect his friend, to Yashar, the genie who is Colby's companion and sometime helper, to Coyote the trickster to the nixies to the drunken angels to the redcaps to the seelie and unseelie to... too much? That's pretty much how I felt while reading it!

To be fair, Cargill makes the attempt here to get away from the cliched tropes of fantasy characters, and is somewhat successful. Most of us have read about fairies and genies and magic, and in Dreams and Shadows we at least see a new take on all of these things, and how they come together to form a tapestry of story. But that tapestry is showing its wear, and all too often the maker feels the need to make his mark on it when just letting it spin itself would have worked better.

Perhaps most unnecessary were the frequent pauses in the story to "explain" one myth or another with fictitious excerpts from scholarly works about the magical creatures we encounter along the way. They weren't needed, they didn't add much to the story, and by the time I was halfway through the book, they just felt like an author trying to show off. I was tempted to skip them - I didn't do it, but I was tempted.

And yet there's good parts too - there's cool twists on old tropes, the action is surprisingly graphic and gritty, the main characters develop consistently but not always predictably, and the final battle has a couple surprises in store. All in all, it's a story that holds together, but there's so many moving parts you end up wondering what they were all doing there. Couldn't the same story have been told more simply, with less flourish and more focus? I think so.

I go back to that jazz concert - I remember some stirring notes on a guitar, a brazen call from a talented trumpet, a cacophany of drums and cymbals. In the book we have a mix of mythologies, many different characters, multiple locations and time frames. Taken in themselves they showed talent and flair. Put them together and they don't blend well - the harsh parts stand out too strongly and the quieter moments are overwhelmed.

It would take a master to take all these moving parts and make them into something harmonious and powerful, and while C. Robert Cargill shows some talent and a way with words, he just isn't that master yet, and Dreams and Shadows isn't the book it could be.
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