That’s it. That’s the review.
In all seriousness, I would best summarize this book as a really awful book based on really good ideas. Cargill has an incredible vision with Dreams and Shadows, but fails to execute. The premise is a dark, urban take on fairy tales. Changelings, sinister customs, evil fairy lore, tricksters, blah blah blah. And a lot of blood. Which… is fine! That’s totally fine. But the problem is, when you try and do an adult spin on a children’s tale, you should probably write your book like its target audience is… y’know… adults. The narrative style, tone, and structure are all very childish, making the dark content far less sinister than the author intends because you can’t take a damned thing in this book seriously.
And ok, honestly? This author wastes a lot of fucking time world-building and setting up the story. Throughout the narrative, Cargill sprinkles in in-world texts that do much of the world-building grunt work, similar to in a video game when your character finds a book and it gives you a tidbit about the in-game universe, a technique I am actually ok with and have often really enjoyed. Except, sprinkles is too gentle a word, because Cargill fucking runs you over with these texts. The book is split into two parts, technically, which are about equal in length, but when I made it at last to the end of part 1, my thought was not “I am halfway through the book” but “ok the book is actually gonna start now I guess?” Because EVERY OTHER FUCKING CHAPTER in part 1 is one of these in-world text excerpts. And most of them are totally useless, either revealing things that we already could clearly glean from the narrative, or things that there is literally no reason NOT to show us via the narrative, considering it would have been way more interesting to do so that way than presenting dry, moldy ass text book style essays on goddamn fairies.
What is most frustrating about this book, though, is the fact that the writing style and tone are basically tanking what could otherwise be a fantastic read. There are a few really cool twists on some common fairy lore in here—one of our main characters, for example, is a stolen child who has a life-long feud with the changeling he was replaced with, which sounds AWESOME but our hero dude is so bland and boring that you end up just kinda wishing the changeling would kill him and get it (read: this entire book) over with. Seriously, hearing about the premise of this book and then actually reading it is like… getting your hopes up really high and then having someone… shoot and mug those same hopes in an alleyway.
What is GOOD about Dreams and Shadows is that it is technically part of a series, but the ending is satisfying enough to read it as a standalone. It’s not that this book is COMPLETELY unenjoyable, it’s just that it really doesn’t achieve what I think it attempts to, for its target audience. I think this book would be best enjoyed by teens aged 16-19 probably.
I rate this book two poos left uncovered in the litter box.