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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sandman: The Dream Hunters

Sandman: The Dream Hunters




Artist: Yoshitaka Amano

Neil Gaiman


book is not a graphic novel. Rather, The Dream Hunters is a beautifully
illustrated and exquisitely written story of ancient Japan involving magic,
love, sacrifices and, of course, dreams. Taken from an ancient myth, this
magical retelling is both a Sandman story and a freestanding work all its own,
without needing reference or background in the Sandman universe.

story begins, as so many stories do, with a wager. A badger and a fox wager
that whoever can roust a pious young monk from his temple shall have the temple
for a home. Despite their efforts, the monk is not fooled, and eventually the
wager is called off. The fox goes to the monk and apologizes, an unprecedented
move for the fox. The monk is accepting, and the two become friends.

fox learns of danger to her new friend, the monk, and is determined to save him
from almost certain death. Indeed, she travels to far inner spaces, and manages
to save the monk from the subtle spell that has been cast upon him. However,
the monk is as stubborn as the fox and his own efforts to save her are as just
as strong. He travels to the dreamlands in order to bargain for her life, and
is beset by dangers of all sorts, without losing his resolve. The ending is
unexpected, bittersweet and revealing all at once.

Amano's illustrations are a variety of media, ranging from etching on gold, to
watercolors, oils and pencil sketches. Each illustration is a marvel to be
admired on its own as well as adding to the story. I was lucky enough to view
his exhibit, which included original paintings for this book, and they are
incredibly magical works on their own.

Gaiman's wordsmithing whisks the reader off to a completely different milieu,
without leaving us floundering for some sort of context. I especially enjoyed a
cameo of two characters from The Dreaming comic book series, and was thrilled
to learn that they were actually part of the original myth that this story was
based upon.

all, the experience of reading this book left me trembling on the knife-edge of
tears and laughter. I found it to be an emotionally moving experience and
highly recommend this book to everyone whether they have previously enjoyed
Gaiman's Sandman stories or have never read anything by him at all. Reading The
Dream Hunters was a magical experience to be savored.

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