Whilst feverishly catching up on the Gollancz list Harriet, our new-ish Marketing Assistant, has discovered the wonder that is C. Robert Cargill. Here is her review of Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things.
I have had two truly wonderful experiences over the past month: discovering C. Robert Cargill and seeing Justin Timberlake in concert. Both were magical, but in very different ways. But I’m not here to talk about JT . . . Cargill’s Dreams and Shadows is the first of the books featuring wizard Colby Stevens, who we then meet all grown up in Queen of the Dark Things. These are incredibly well-written fantasy novels with a healthy dash of folklore set in Austin, Texas and the magical realm of the Limestone Kingdom.
In the first book of the series, Dreams and Shadows, we meet Colby as a young boy neglected by his mother, who is granted a wish and transformed into a wizard by a djinn (genie). Good already right? In parallel to Colby’s story is the tale of Ewan and Knocks, a boy and a fairy Changeling who are swapped in the cradle. Having been taken back into the fairy realm where both he and Ewan reside, Knocks harbours an intense hatred for golden boy Ewan which culminates in devastating consequences (I won’t ruin it all for you, don’t worry). Colby and Ewan become best buddies and it seems that maybe their friendship will conquer all, but Colby’s adventures into the supernatural soon become a lot darker than he expected. Wizards – check – fairies – check – genies – check – enraged disintegrating woman returning from hell riding on an evil goat to claim back her child – CHECK. This book is dark, mystical and at times truly touching. Its saccharine sweet beginning soon makes way for some incredibly dark happenings, and it is Cargill’s amazing ability to completely turn the tables on his readers that make this an exceptional read. Cargill’s descriptions are also incredible. In particular the coming of the Wild Hunt is truly breathtaking in all its glorious horrific detail, led by the “gaunt, cadaverous nightmare” of a mother searching for her son. And the ending will break your heart, by the way. You have been warned.
Queen of the Dark Things sees Colby in his early twenties. And with a crush (on the genius loci of Austin, naturally). This time he is having issues not with the fairies (although they are still hanging around) but with new kinds of spirits that lurk in the Australian outback. We are introduced to Dream Walkers and kutji (shadows) as Colby tries to battle the Queen of the Dark Things and her plan to harness all of Hell under her power. Here, fantasy and aboriginal folklore combine for another engrossing adventure through the supernatural landscape. Cargill’s conjuring of the Australian outback and its mystical power is stunning, and his weaving together of the story of Kaycee, another who was neglected as a chid by an alcoholic parent, and the troubled and world-weary wizard Colby is seamless. A stand out moment for me was really any time that one of the Seventy-two rocked up. Just you wait. Those guys are scary.