Top Shelf in February: DREAMS AND SHADOWS

Top Shelf in February: Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill
Reviewed by Raul

I picked up Dreams and Shadows because an urban fantasy novel set in Austin and the Hill Country intrigued me. Wow – I was amazed and entirely enraptured from the beginning to the end, for Cargill, a screenwriter creates a world where magic mixes with the mundane and offers consequences that are entirely believable.

Ewan has been living with the Fae for most of his life, waiting anxiously for the day when he will be made a fairy. Meanwhile, Colby encounters a genie who grants him the ability to see magical things that no one else can. They meet in the Limestone Kingdom where they become fast friends, and when Ewan is in mortal danger, Colby rescues him. Both are asked to leave the Fae world behind and return to the world of Man. What makes this story so compelling is a theme that falls along these lines: you can get what you want and still not be very happy.

Ewan is saved from the Fae world, but ends up a struggling musician in Austin, and it is not until he meets his muse that things begin to change. Though he remembers nothing of his time in the Limestone Kingdom, something inside him finds the music of his childhood, a new sound that will bring him success. Unfortunately, it also calls the attention of the Fae who have never forgotten him.

Colby has spent his life exploring all the magical places and seeing all the magical things with his genie, and he is tired. There is literally nothing he has not experienced and he is well versed in the ways of the Fae, fallen angels, ghosts, and all their like. He has kept an eye on Ewan over the years, but senses something has changed in his friend, and suspects that it may be the new girl in his life.

Compassion plays a part in Colby’s interest in his friend’s life, but there is also the very real feeling of obligation. They are not brothers, yet the bond they feel for one another is certainly of that ilk. He rescued Ewan knowing exactly what the Fae wanted him for, but he cannot bring himself to tell Ewan the truth. The emotional fallout of his inability to be honest with his friend certainly leads to much of Ewan’s problems. Colby only visits once in a while, so even the idea of “friend” becomes suspect and if they are not brothers and not friends – what exactly connects these two disparate characters?

What was made right with a childhood wish may not always stay that way. The idea that we can believe in wishes and think that will make everything all right is in itself a puerile fantasy, for all children do grow up. There are some consequences we cannot avoid despite all the magic in the world; some fates are set in stone despite all our collective machinations to the contrary and even the most benign act can have fatal results. This is what life is really about and more often than not, it is tragedy that connects people.

It is important to note that Cargill utilizes many aspects of the Fae world and sets them in familiar settings: nixies living in Town Lake, redcaps prowling the Greenbelt, fallen angels patronizing dingy bars off 6th street. I mean who hasn’t seen strange things in the lakes, woods, and bars in this capital city? Cargill focuses his characters’ struggles in settings that everyone is free to enjoy but enhances them with a hell of a great tale.

If you enjoy urban fantasty, or any kind of dark fantasy, Dreams and Shadows is for you.

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Dreams and Shadows hits shelves February 26. Pre-order your signed copy now via bookpeople.com. C. Robert Cargill speaks about and signs copies of his new book here at BookPeople on Thursday, February 28 at 7pm.

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