C. Robert Cargill was once known as Massawyrm on the movie blog Ain’t it Cool News. After years as a freelance film writer, Cargill teamed up with director Scott Derrickson on the hit horror film, Sinister. But Cargill wasn’t done there. The man is still stretching his writing muscles with his first foray into novel writing, Dreams and Shadows, out Feb. 26th.
I don’t want to give the plot away since there is so damn much of it, but let’s just say the story concerns a fantasy world that exists in and around our reality. We get glimpses inside this world through the eyes of two very different and very young boys.
I often feel fantasy stories are a waste of time. However, Cargill proves with Dreams and Shadows that he’s not just a writer capable of creating and presenting dense mythology well (he is), but that he is also a talented storyteller with a visual sense about his prose that edges on riveting at times.
Dreams and Shadows presents a realm of fairies and creatures one has never heard of before. Even Hell gets a good ol’ part to play. There’s a lot here, and sometimes that can make the novel a little too dense and confusing. At times Cargill is simply juggling too many balls at once. However, he does intercut his story with chapters from fictional technical manuals explaining the rules and history of his characters and creatures.
It’s a fun way to be introduced to the world and works quite well at laying groundwork for Cargill’s vision. It especially succeeds when he presents an entire chapter filled with mythology and action we don’t understand (but care about because of his writing) and then explains everything in the next chapter. It makes one want to read parts more than once, and it helps Dreams and Shadows stand out.
The other aspect that works in Dreams and Shadows’ favor is that, despite the very detailed fantasy world and everything that is thrown at the reader, the story ends up focusing on simple things like growing up and the relationships between teacher and student, father and son. It takes awhile for the story to fulfill these universal themes, but when it does it pays off.
Dreams and Shadows was a novel I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. It works because Cargill is a natural novelist with a great cinematic sense that gives energy to his words. This is a literary debut from someone who can expect a long writing career.