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by Richard Roberts

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2013
ISBN: 9781620070802
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

A dark and complex young-adult fantasy of love, longing and war.

Roberts’ remarkably accomplished, involving (if lamentably titled) YA novel centers on Fang—a nightmare embodied in the form of a large, ferocious black dog with the thoughts, feelings and soul of a classic teen-novel bad-boy hero. Fang inhabits the Dark—a shifting, kaleidoscopic landscape inhabited by other nightmares, demons and brawling angels—where his “Muse” sits all day sad and silent in her ramshackle house, indifferent to Fang’s feelings for her. Fang’s existence as a stalker of other people’s dreams is being challenged from multiple directions (and by multiple females)—his indifferent Muse, the dreaming mortal girl Anna, and even Lily, a demon with hair like “blood” and a surprisingly romantic heart (“I’d trade a house full of regular flowers for just one,” Lily tells our hero, “if it was picked because it was perfect for me”). Complicating matters at the outset is Fang’s friend Jeffery, who concocts a scheme to radically extend the reach and power of the Dark—a plan that eventually upsets the delicate balance of power in the supernatural realm and sparks a war. Scene-stealer Baal heads the team of bad angels. He contemptuously tells one of the good guys, “Not all of us spend every night praying we could lick our Father’s boots again.” Roberts charges virtually every scene with tension and some refreshingly unsentimental dialogue, and the underpinning worldbuilding is complex and convincing. Through adroit pacing, distinctive characters (especially Fang himself, who’s the perfect balance of tough and tender) and some quite lovely prose, he crafts a story of surprising emotional punch.

The lone-wolf-finds-love YA formula, tweaked and reshaped with a poet’s sensibilities.