Dreams of Shreds and Tatters

Dreams of Shreds and Tatters - Amanda Downum

[I received an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Granted, I took my sweet time in reading it... so by now the book has been out for quite a few months.

Overall an interesting experience, though I expected more out of it. I've been fascinated by the original work behind this, The King in Yellow, for a couple of decades, from the weight it bore in Lovecraft's works to the stories by Robert Chambers that actually inspired it. Simply suggest one nightmarish yet terribly beautiful and sublime (in a Burkian sense) city, and I will think "Carcosa". And while we don't have a play here, we do have art, including the painting of a door.

Mostly I liked the descriptions, especially of what happened in dreams and how some people in Vancouver were affected. Liz the dreamer, chasing after her friend Blake to bring him back from his coma. Blake, lost in a place he doesn't understand, where pain and promises of eternal pleasure tempt him both. Rainer and his circle of artists who dabble in magic too potent for them. Rae and other people addicted to mania, a dream-inducing drug that does just that, and more, turning them into zombie-like creatures desperately wanting to taste the real dream. Above them all, the shadow of the King in Yellow, watching from his throne, and the Twins, waiting for an opening. Waiting for, yes, a door.

Such imagery I found quite fascinating, even though I admit it didn't extend to the actual Vancouver (rain and cold is standard weather where I live), and that I found myself eagerly waiting for the oneiric dreams, the ones involving Liz seeking Blake in the strange streets, corridors and rooms in Carcosa, under inhuman skies. Those were the most interesting scenes for me. Also some other mysteries, such as Lailah and the two other "jackals", which may or may not be akin to certain hounds living beyond the folds of time and space, but...

...But that's one of the problems that prevented me from enjoying this story more: a lot of side stories and hints that made the characters more enjoyable, and paradoxically were really frustrating, as they're not resolved in the end. Alex, for instance: his past involvment with Samantha was brushed upon, where it would have deserved more, considering the sequels it left him with. The artists, too: running from a Brotherhood, rivals of another wannabe sorcerer, the beginning of a strange relationship where Rae was concerned... yet all of this collided a bit too fast (almost in a chaos that may have been intended to mirror the circumstances everybody was thrown in, only it didn't work that well). Such subplots deserved either more developement, or not to have been included at all, as the middle ground didn't feel so satisfying. More answers as to who was what and what was who would have been appreciated. Where does Liz's power come from? What about the memories she sacrificed, would those come back to bite her later? What exactly is Lailah? What role did Seker play, apart from being some deus ex machina?

Also, a lot of the characters had a sort of "hype" edge bordering on pedantic, as if they were trying too hard—including the asexual relationship thrown in there (are Liz and Alex happy that way? Because Alex sure doesn't seem to be, not that much). I'm all for various kinds of relationships instead of the usual, often bland typical ones, but something didn't quite fit here.

I still liked this story, mind you. I just expected more out of it, I guess.