Dream Review for The Darkening Dream
September 7, 2012
Today’s dream review spotlights The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin, a Top 5 Finalist for Indie Book of the Year in the horror/sci-fi category. It may change the way you forever look at vampires. Then again, you may always feel the fear.
The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin is not your typical vampire novel. Gavin clearly knows his genre backward, forward, and inside out. He simultaneously pays homage and reinvents. At the core, this is a story about a cabal of ancient supernatural creatures trying to destroy the world and the teenagers that stand in their way, but from this overdone premise comes and an entirely new – and shall I say – realistic effort.
On one hand, the book is packed with an overwhelming array of mystical entities, on the other, they are integrated in a seamless and naturalistic fashion, with characters that are far more than one dimensional. We have a 900 year-old vampire, a puritan pastor who dabbles in witchcraft and is in love with a demon, decrepit Egyptian gods, a kickass kabbalah mage, and a host of other preternatural entities including the Archangel Gabriel. But for each of these, Gavin has hit the books hard and drawn on a creepfest of historical sources.
This isn’t a world where vampires sparkle in the sun or witches crinkle their noses and teleport across town. No, in The Darkening Dream vampires are dead things. Corpses animated by ancient blood magics and centuries of hatred. Cunning yes. Evil yes. Deadly definitely. A thing that’s survived a millennium after death by draining the life-force of others isn’t careless, isn’t sentimental. And it certainly doesn’t pine over the cruel and transcendental nature of its curse.
Speaking of curses, this book has plenty to go around. But this magic isn’t the kind that comes easy. There is always a price. The young protagonists learn this the hard way when they take on ancient evil with a few fledgling powers. The characters are varied and as realistic as the spells. These are real people dealing with impossible situations. Nothing is black and white and even the most horrible of villains have their reasons.
There are a lot of twists and turns in this book. The setting is Salem, Massachusetts right before World War I, a place and time poised between the traditional and the modern. Which in its own way is at the core of the story. Aren’t ancient sorcerers and the like, after all, traditionalists? Would 900 year-old vampires learn to speak teen slang? It seems everyone is a product of their era, even the undead!
The prose is lean and unsentimental, more Lovecraft or 20s noir than Twilight. Things happen in a gritty, bloody, realistic way. Except there’s a lot of magic going around, but in a way consistent with the real world we know. Or more the world we might want to know: where every cool legend is in fact – true – but certainly all the more terrifying.
The result: One hell of a ride. This is a book that builds. In the first third, it lays its groundwork and creates its world. Then the rest is one breathless lunatic descent into madness: unrelenting, emotionally exhausting, nerve wracking, shocking, and ultimately cathartic. Try it.