If you’ve ever wished for the chance to see things the rest of the world is blind to, I suggest you take it back while you can. Dreams and Shadows deftly weaves the allure of the unknown with the tragedy of what has been left behind, and at the center of the story is the danger of receiving your heart’s desire.
Like all good stories, the different threads of this tale go back through time and generations, but for the main trio of this story, it all begins when a Bendith Y Mamau steals the human baby Ewan from his cradle leaving changeling Knocks in his place. In time, both are raised in the Limestone Kingdom among the fairies. Ewan is called the Tithe Child and treated as special. Knocks is left to fester at the unfairness of being rejected by two sets of parents, both of whom preferred the human boy. As the time approaches for Ewan to truly become one of the fairy folk, almost coincidentally it seems, another human child stumbles across a djinn. And for his first wish, Colby Stevens asked to be able to see all the supernatural creatures of the world.
It becomes a dangerous wish, one that can topple traditions and change the world. When Colby befriends Ewan and becomes his protector, the course of the fairy world is irrevocably altered. As adults, both Colby and Ewan try to put the past behind them, but both the beautiful fairy girl Mallaidh and the vengeful Knocks are focused on finding Ewan. When they do, Colby begins to understand the full extent and responsibility of the power he once wished for so glibly.
Seeped in the blood and loss of the old fairy tales, Dreams and Shadows is one of those rare books that serve as just an exciting read and as fodder for deeper thought. The coming of age of Colby is thrilling and full of magic, but in the end, it is still the story of a boy becoming a man. While Ewan is central to the story, it is the character of Knocks who serves as the best foil to Colby. Together they raise the question of what happens after an emotional decision in the heat of the moment, and how a responsible person bears that burden.
The book itself is extremely well written and hit so many of the geeky parts of my heart with used bookstores full of rare books, text from a fairy field guide interspersed throughout the novel, and the use of the older and scarier fairy creatures of legends. It also managed to walk that microscopic line of being dark and violent and yet offering hope and light. An amazing début novel, Dreams and Shadows is more than deserving of its comparisons to books by Neil Gaiman and Lev Grossman.