Dreams Made Flesh

by Anne Bishop

Cover image

Series: Black Jewels #4
Publisher: Roc
Copyright: January 2005
ISBN: 0-451-46013-8
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 425

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Dreams Made Flesh is a collection of short stories that adds on to and fills in some gaps in Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy. You don't want to read these stories without having read the trilogy; not only are there spoilers, but much of the emotional impact of the stories would be lost without the background and Bishop (thankfully) doesn't spend a lot of time explaining who's who.

I wasn't sure about this book. A short story collection based on a fantasy trilogy sounded like it might tend towards filler and one of the things I liked most about Bishop's stories is the emotional rhythm she manages over the course of a novel. It worked, though. Two of the stories are fairly long, novella length I believe, which was a good choice and gives Bishop enough room to hit her stride.

The two shorter stories take place long before the events of the main trilogy, filling in background and history. The first longer story is Lucivar and Marian's story, falling between books two and three of the trilogy, and the final story is the much needed wrap-up, saying what happens to Jaenelle after the events of Queen of the Darkness.

If you liked the trilogy, I definitely recommend this book. It's more of the same, with Bishop's not-quite-human characters, heightened emotions, and play with stereotypes, but I think the shorter form works better for her. There's less padding, less repetition, and less plot delay through all the characters acting stupid. It's not great literary writing, nor is it good human characterization, but if your suspension of disbelief can handle it and you like the intense emotions, this is great entertainment and satisfying escapism.

"Weaver of Dreams": The shortest and most experimental story in this book, this one tells a story from very early in the history of the world, filling in one of the origins of magic. It was interesting, but a bit difficult to read and didn't really grab me. (6)

"The Prince of Ebon Rih": This is Lucivar and Marian's story and weighs in at a comfortable couple hundred pages. It was very good to see this story told; I was a bit surprised when it happened between books in the trilogy. This was fun. I love Marian as a character, and Bishop's conception of a hearth mage is stereotype-ridden but amusing and handled so charmingly that I didn't mind the slightly twisted traditional gender roles. I find Bishop's love scenes and banter more funny than sexy, but they make me smile. (9)

"Zuulaman": Also known as "why Saetan has a reputation as a bad-ass," there isn't a great deal of plot complexity here. One pretty much knows what's coming from the beginning of the fairly short story. It's the only story of this book that dips into pure power-mongering and features a main character just letting loose, something that was more common in the trilogy. I like the change away from stories about power and I think Bishop does better when she writes positive stories with happy endings, although I did like reading more of Saetan's past. (7)

"Kaeleer's Heart": This is the main appeal of the collection, although "The Prince of Ebon Rih" was a nice surprise and a better story. Queen of the Darkness left things at a rather ambiguous point, and it is very good to see Jaenelle again (although also nice to see Bishop stick with not using her as a viewpoint character, a decision that seems better and better the more I read in this universe).

Writing a meaningful aftermath to an epic fantasy is quite hard, I think, because it's difficult to deal with the power levels from the end of the fantasy. Either one has to introduce villains with even more ridiculous amounts of power, which looks rather silly, or the readers are left wondering why the characters don't just crush the bad guys, or are left missing the power levels the characters used to have and thinking they're less than they were. Bishop handles this very well, weaving part of that feeling into the story and adroitly taking the conclusion of the trilogy in a different direction that fits the characters.

I think she reached a little to find villains for this story, but in the end it didn't really matter. They were an excuse to get things going; the story wasn't really about them. I liked this story a lot more than I thought I would from the beginning, so if you're put off by the romantic stupidity at the start, stick with it since it goes away rather quickly. (9)

Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed: 2005-04-27

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