“Dreams and Shadows” by Jeffrey Collyer

“Dreams and Shadows” is my kind of book. No, I mean it really is my kind of book. I’m also a novelist, and this is the kind of book I write. Which is not necessarily a good thing, because it is not quite what some readers expect.

On the surface, this is a pretty standard “young person returned to the world of his birth” story. Michael is a disadvantaged misfit in the modern world. Typically, he has a dream. The dream leads him to a magical pendant. He is attacked by an unknown assailant, but escapes…

…and wakes up in a strange land with a girl staring at him. We all know the plot. I’ve reviewed it a handful of times lately. It isn’t the plot that counts. It is the people in it that enthrall us.

Because this is a story about people. People with personalities that interact and compete and influence each other, for good or ill. In the villain’s opinion, the most heinous crime, the greatest triumph, is to manipulate someone into committing suicide. The outcome of the story hinges on Michael’s understanding of himself and how his past has affected him.

The story is not completely satisfying. There are places where it simply takes too long to move the story ahead. There are pivotal characters whose actions are not explained to the reader’s satisfaction, leading us to consider them merely story elements that exist only to move the plot along. But the main characters, and especially Michael himself, we believe. We feel their emotions and understand why they act as they do.

If you are interested in instant-gratification novels where action happens because the reader wants it to happen, then pick up a Space Opera. I reviewed a good one last week. If you want a quick read with lots of thrills, I reviewed an ideal one last month.

There is plenty of action in this story, but not until we know why the characters feel it is necessary. There is suspense, not only based on whether the hero will win the battle, but also on how the outcome will affect him.

Recommended for thoughtful readers who like stories about people and why they act as they do. Not for readers who are picky about grammar and syntax mistakes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


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