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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Book review: Through Dreams So Dark (Rai Ascendant #1) by Angela Boord

 


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Angela Boord writes giant fantasy books that like to blend genres--from romance and historical to espionage and epic and beyond—and explore character in all its messy glory. Her debut book FORTUNE'S FOOL, a twisty, Renaissance-inspired historical fantasy, placed second in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blogoff (SPFBO5) and was nominated for a Stabby in 2019. Angela lives in northern Mississippi with her husband and children, where she writes most of her books at the kitchen table surrounded by Nerf guns and Legos.

Publisher: Impossible Books (October 27, 2022) Page Count (Kindle edition): 1323 pages Cover: Brad Bergman Formats: ebook (Amazon exclusive)



This book is HUGE! At 1323 pages, it's probably the longest book I've ever read. Was it worth it? Or have I finished it through stubbornness alone? 

I'm still trying to find a simple answer. Through Dreams So Dark tells a complex, immersive story. It contains enough material for two-three great books. However, as a single HUGE tome, it's sometimes daunting and, to be brutally honest, tiring. 

Don't get me wrong. It's a good book that requires a lot of attention and slow reading. Angela Boord's writing style is rich and elegant. She keeps the plot twisty, the worldbuilding intricate, and the characters complex and believable. But she also takes her time ( a LOT of time ) to build relationships, and I wonder if a tighter story wouldn't have greater appeal. Even splitting it into two volumes would give readers a breather (especially since there are natural pauses - the book is divided into parts). But I digress: Instead of focusing on its length, I should focus on its content. Besides, I've heard that some readers are into elephant-sized shelf-destroyers :P

Through Dreams So Dark is a multiverse portal fantasy with romance (and bromance), magic, and great characters. It's emotional; even when it gets dark and gritty, it's never hopeless. In Through Dreams So Dark, people can access a portal (called The Lake of The World) that connects different realities in their dreams.

The worlds on opposite sides of the Lake differ a lot. On "our" side of the Lake, we begin in a college town in Illinois in 1988; on the other side hides a very different world with a post-apocalyptic feel. It used to be ruled by gods who were overthrown by their subjects. It resulted in two groups of people fighting for centuries (the pro-magic Miroko and the Tarani, who execute magic users so their gods can't choose new avatars). The book opens with the Tarani claiming gods are going to return to bring a new Deiocracy.

In our world, Sergei deals with a broken family and shadowy government organization trying to dig encoded information out of his nightmares. He agrees to it to learn what they know about his mother, who sacrificed herself to get her family across the Iron Curtain. Sergei has a friend, Cam, but he wants to keep him unaware of everything. With no results. It seems Cam has a sixth sense that allows him to show up to save Sergei whenever he's in trouble.  

Cam has a sister, and Sergei used to have a girlfriend, but... But I think I'll stop here. I would have to write an essay to describe what happens in Through Dreams So Dark. With footnotes and an appendix. As expected, Sergey crosses the portal into a world that's different from ours. And that's where the good stuff starts. I want to emphasize here that the scene where the characters cross realities is insanely good. Like, absolutely brilliant and moving, with powerful imagery.

Angela Boord writes gorgeous prose that's always a pleasure to read. Her characterization skills continue to impress me. Her ability to keep things tight... Well. It's not perfect. The story combines many things, and although I read for the characters, in this case, I felt that their stories and backstories, and romance arcs slowed the pace and muddled the main plot lines. That's subjective and I'm sure many readers will love parts that I found tiring.

I have a hard time rating and reviewing Through Dreams So Dark - it's full of brilliant moments and intelligent intrigue. At the same time, it's too slow at times, and I had to force myself to keep reading. In the end, I'm glad I finished it. It's an immersive and memorable mix of urban, portal, and epic fantasy with great characters. But I still feel like it would work better as two or three smaller books.


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