‘Dreamdark: Blackbringer’ is Laini Taylor’s debut novel and the first in the ‘Faeries Of Dreamdark’ series which consists of two books.
Magpie Windwitch is a faerie but, not the usual prancing sparkling kind, she happens to be the granddaughter of the West Wind, oh, and she hunts demons with her band of crows. Magpie is the only faerie who has decided to try and save the world by hunting down the devils that were originally trapped but are now being released by stupid humans looking for treasure. She and her band of crows travel the world finding the opened bottles that trapped the devils and tries to put them back. Unfortunately, the most recent bottle she found happens to have been sealed by the Djinn King, also known as the creature who created the world which means that this devil is way out of her league! Magpie needs to travel back to the faerie stronghold of Dreamdark, in the wilds of Scotland, to try and find the Djinn King aka Magruwen to get his help to trap this demon before he can unmake the entire world. Meanwhile, the demon called Blackbringer is busy unmaking every faerie he can get his terrifying whip-like tongue on.
I have to say that I really did not get on with this book when I first started it. Taylor has created a very detailed world with a lot of its own language that I found hard to get on with at first. I found that some of the ‘accents’ that they characters spoke with grated a little bit to begin with but then, as the book progressed, they helped me to recognise the different characters. It really is like stepping into a new and very weird world that you suddenly arrive in with no guidance. There wasn’t a lot of explanation or the hand holding that you find in other books, as the reader you just have to get to grips with things as you go along but, once you do get a handle on the language and world, it really is magical! This is one very well visualised world with every single tiny aspect covered from the multitude of different creatures in the world to where they go after they die. Taylor has put a huge amount of work into this book, and I hope into the next one, too.
This is a very simple story at its heart, so most of the book is really about the characters and how they all relate to each other, what they all mean to each other, etc. Taylor really is excellent at creating characters all of whom are really different and relatable in their own way from the different crows to the Djinn King even to the devil Blackbringer. Each of them has reasons for what they do and I really understood and came to care about many of them. Some of the character descriptions were pretty gruesome, for example Gutsuck and its method of managing to eat its prey was really disgusting.
Taylor did stick to some of the better known fairy tale tropes, such as the baddies getting the justice they deserve. One character, in particular, I was very happy to see got found out and removed from Dreamdark unceremoniously. She also used some of the more recognisable creatures such as dragons but didn’t go crazy having massive fights using them, they are used in a much more delicate and interesting way.
Oh and there are some beautiful line drawings of the main characters scattered throughout the book drawn by Jim Di Bartolo, that really help to bring the story to life. I loved that Taylor isn’t afraid to put pictures into her book and she doesn’t seem to worry that this might make people think of kids books.
Overall, I did enjoy this book but, as I’ve said, it really did take me some time, maybe 100-150 pages but, once I’d got into the book, it really was enjoyable and I’m eager to start the next one in the series.
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(pub: Firebird Fantasy/Penguin, 2007. 435 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $ 9.99 (US), $12.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-14-241168-1)