I’m sure that, by now, readers who are familiar with this site know just how much I enjoy to rip apart any and all fantasy novels (mostly because I’m not the biggest fantasy novel fan). I will admit now that I really didn’t have any expectations with the next book, Court of Dreams by Stuart Sharp. I mean, I’d never heard of the author, never heard of the publisher and (quite frankly) wasn’t very taken with the cover (a mistake that I sometimes make). I will further admit that I thought it was going to just be another fantasy book. I will go on the record to say that not only is this book not just another fantasy novel, it is probably one of the best books I’ve read this year.
This witty and sly story starts off with the Master of the Hunt, Grave, about to dispatch his next “target”. Internal monologue aside, Graves kills the woman but smells something strange about the man who almost witnessed the murder. Graves, a hulking giant of a man-beast, heads back to the princess of dreams with half of his hit list fulfilled. The man, Grave decided, was definitely not the other target.
In the Court of Dreams, Erithnae, the queen, rules supreme. However, her mischievous daughter Siobhan (aforementioned princess of dreams and potential psycho in the making) has plots and plans afoot, and the Master of the Hunt (Grave) is key to these plans. However, Grave doesn’t quite know that he is being played (he suspects but has no proof), and conitnues to do the bidding of the vicious little princess. Grave goes back to the college with his newly assigned mission — kill the man known as Thomas Greene, who was the almost-witness of his last victim.
For Thomas, life was looking up. He had a great new job offer, was graduating university and was about to break up with his vegetarian girlfriend. Well, this last little bit would have gone off without a hitch had he not accidentally hypnotized the soon-to-be ex and she not catch on. As Grave closes in on his target, Thomas clumsily avoids the Master of the Hunt and, with Nicola (soon-to-be ex) in tow, stumbles into the Court of Dreams, a magical world that is far more different than anything that Thomas has ever seen before.
Thomas and Nicola are separated upon arrival (a good thing for Thomas, because I was quite certain that Nicola was about to neuter him) and Thomas meets a strange man named Simon Stranded, who is a figment of a dream (being stranded on a deserted island with a handsome man, which created Simon… it’s funny, brilliant and quite difficult to explain without giving away the entire plot of the book). Simon helps Thomas escape for awhile until the most atrociously hilarious search party in the history of literature tracks him down and the princess, who is quite perturbed with the human male, locks him away in her private, secret dungeon.
Seriously, this book had me rolling at this point. After about six or seven books straight of nothing but morose, dark fiction, it was a vast relief to read something so whimsical and fresh. Sharp hits the ground running here and this book, like all great books, is slightly different every time one reads it. That old saying of “No book is the same when read twice” definitely should be applied to this book. The pacing is quick, the wit is extremely sharp, and the dialogue feels very natural and fresh. The scene changes are done well, and the POV shifts are done well enough that I had little problems tracking who was where at any given time (something of a pet peeve of mine).
The ending is a little predictable, until the twist at the end (both a punishment and a reward for Thomas) which brought on a serious case of the giggles. Definitely a must-read book. I’ve read it twice already, and plan on loaning this one out to friends. Assuming, of course, they promise to give it back.
-Reviewed by Jason