Anyone picking up Amanda Downum’s Dreams of Shreds and Tatters will be confused. The prologue opens with a cabal of artists gathering around a mysterious, powerful man. Chapter one shows us a magical disaster. Chapter two jumps us ahead in time once more to reveal the aftermath of humans meddling in things they do not understand. There were enough clues scatters in the book to send me scrambling to Wikipedia for background about the King in Yellow and Carcosa*. Downum’s novel is a gripping reimagining of Robert Chambers’ mythos.
Blake, a painter, is the first character introduced as a protagonists. Through his perspective, we see just how obsessed he and his fellow artists—under the tutelege of Rainer Morgenstern, their patron—grew about opening a door to magic and making contact with the King in Yellow. Blake is nearly killed during the group’s most successful attempt and lies in a coma when the book’s perspective shifts to Liz Drake. Liz has been Blake’s friend for years and feels protective of the nearly broken gay man. She travels to Vancouver with her boyfriend, Alex, when she grows worried about Blake’s months’ long silence. Alex is a skeptic about Liz’s dreams, but he loves her so much he won’t let her go alone.
Liz and Alex; Rainer and his lover, Antja; and Blake take turns narrating Dreams of Shreds and Tatters. Rainer serves the King in Yellow in exchange for magic. Antja has made a bargain with a creature she calls the devil to try and protect herself and Rainer. Liz and Alex are the neophytes in this world. As such, they’re our gateway into a bewildering universe of multiple worlds and hidden motives. Nothing is spoonfed to the reader.
The perspectives of the various narrators braid together to create a collision of quests. Liz’s quest to rescue Blake from whatever he’s gotten himself tangled up in is at the fore, but Rainer’s Faustian quest for power via the supernatural is a close second. Rainer has been distributing a drug called mania to artists and seekers to try and force open the door between this world and the world of the King in Yellow. Nearly every other character knows this is folly, but the lure of magic is too much for most to resist.
I don’t know how much Dreams of Shreds and Tatters takes from Chambers’ stories; I haven’t read them. So I don’t know if Liz’s abilities to dream herself into other worlds or the maenads and monsters or the female soldiers are a part of the mythos. It doesn’t matter that much, but I suspect I would have understood the stakes the characters were playing for if I had more background knowledge about the King in Yellow and Chambers.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 12 May 2015.
* Some readers might recognize the names from True Detective. There is no link between Dreams of Shreds and Tatters and the HBO series.