Paul Hamilton's Reviews > The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists

The Sandman, Vol. 4 by Neil Gaiman
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's review
Jul 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: graphic-novel, horror

In my past attempts to read through The Sandman, this is the point at which I always stopped. In my review for The Doll's House I said that volume was so good that it bizarrely made reluctant to go much further for fear of the rest either not living up to that book or perhaps for fear of it at some point being over.

What I had forgotten until this last time was that I had never finished Season Of Mists until now. Which is not to say that it is bad; on the contrary it's very good. But there is something about the pacing of this arc that is different from Preludes or The Doll's House, something that makes it easy for me to put down. I'm not entirely sure what it is, to be honest, but I have a couple of theories. One is that perhaps Chapter 4, which is where I usually set it down, while a very good interlude when taken as a stand-alone, breaks the narrative flow so completely that I somehow manage to stop caring who ends up with the key to Hell in the course of it. Another possibility is that there are so many players whose threads are tied up into the central conflict of who ends up owning Hell—Odin, Thor and Loki, Anubis and Bast, Susano-O-No-Mikoto, Azazel and the demons, Kilderkin and Order, Jemmy and Chaos, Nada, Death and the other Endless, Remiel and Duma—while each are fascinating characters and I would welcome a story where Dream interacts with any or each, stuffing them all together makes the resolution of the conflict feel laborious.

It is therefore sad that it has taken me so long (and so many tries) to get to the end of the story because the resolution is absolutely wonderful, just perfectly satisfying. We learn more about Dream, there is closure with the whole Hell thing (plus a new and fascinating twist which may or may not need revisiting later) and the way the Azazel confrontation is handled is stunning, particularly in the way Dream casually shrugs off his actions and decisions. It really drives home the point that Sandman is kind of a callous jerk, vengeful and remorseless. At one point in an earlier book he remarks how strange it is that humans fear his sister so when he, in fact, is by far the more terrible of the two. Neil Gaiman never pounds it into the reader's head that Dream is really more of an anti-hero than anything, but it comes across in a variety of subtle ways.

I hope, having now finally finished this volume, that I'll get over my odd reluctance to finish the series. It is unfortunate that it takes a bit of determination to get through the slightly dragging middle of this volume, but the payoff is well worth it and for once I'm eager for more.

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