The Dreamstone by CJ Cherryh

This was meant to be the year I tried CJ Cherryh’s sci-fi. Instead, I saw someone make a stray mention to a fantasy book called The Dreamstone, and I was on it like a ferret up a trouser leg.

And what a good decision that was.

Now I’ve got to be up front about something here.

There were elements of the plot I didn’t really get. After I was done I read the synopsis on wiki and saw there were multiple key turning points I’d somehow missed or forgotten. That is

a) very unlike me

b) normally a good sign the book wasn’t that good

But this is the exception that proves the rule. The Dreamstone conquered my good wishes through sheer vibes alone.

It’s set in an iron age Celtic style world, in which humanity and the sidhe butt up against each other uncomfortably. There is a certain tone available to such stories that makes me incredibly happy, one that aims for the feeling of days that never were and never will be. Think the opening part of Nicola Griffith’s Spear, think Rosemary Sutcliff’s stories, think some of the dreamier elements of Patricia McKillip and the more archaic parts of Le Guin and the more surreal scenes of Holdstock.

Well, Cherryh basically nails the best of all those and puts it in front of me.

6/5, review over.

Wait, you want to know about characters and plots? That wasn’t enough for you?

Fine, fine.

The Dreamstone is a multi-generational tale. It tells of an exiled lord, Niall, of the lady he marries and her son, and of a young warrior. It tells also of Arafel, the sidhe guardian of the last untouched forest, drawn reluctantly into mortal affairs. The plot is slow at times, but compelling despite that (and what I said about missing some points in the prose).

The characters are not the book’s selling point, but they aren’t its weakness either. They’re well drawn plays on stock characters, well drawn enough I wish we could have spent more time with all of them.

That we didn’t however is one of The Dreamstone’s strengths as well as a weakness. It is a short read, jampacked with primaeval atmosphere and lyrical prose. Getting bogged down in character development would have made it longer, possibly too long for the magic contained with.

And there is magic in here, and that’s all that matters at the heart and soul of it.

What a great decision to read this this was.


5 thoughts on “The Dreamstone by CJ Cherryh

  1. Thanks for the heads-up, I’ll add it to my list. I had seen a copy of book two, The Tree of Swords and Jewels, recently at a used book shop. Maybe I should go back and get it while I keep an eye out for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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