Castle Dreams by John DeChancie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I discovered DeChancie's Castle series many years ago, browsing a used book store. I've been collecting the eight book series, off and on, since. Castle Dreams is the sixth book and it is, by far, the strangest in an admittedly strange series.
For those that don't know it, the books revolve around Castle Perilous, a large medeival castle with a rather odd attribute: scattered throughout the castle are "aspects" or portals to other worlds. Residents of the castle can come and go through these portals. What happens to a core set of characters as they venture through various portals, and what befalls the castle through them, make up most of the stories in the series.
Castle Dreams is a bit different. It opens like many, with familiar characters Gene, Linda, Snowclaw, and a few others in the Gaming Hall in the castle. Gene, as is often the case, is bored and heads off to find an aspect that looks interesting. He ends up on an alien world, helping a female member of the ruling party there escape capture by a rebel force. The chapters about him are scattered among the other stories, and Gene's seems the most straightforward of them all. While he is gone, word comes that Lord Incarnadine, the King of Castle Perilous has died. As the residents and subjects of the Castle prepare for the funeral, strange stories begin to be interspersed. There is the strange, void-like barren where a lone traveler, who cannot remember who he is or why he is here, must travel until he finds his answers. Linda is having dreams of being back on Earth, with a boyfriend, living in California. Or are they dreams? Trent, Prince and brother to Incarnidine, sees his chance to take the throne he has always felt bleonged to him and not his brother. Along the way, he begins to suspect that Incarnadine was murdered, and sets out to find the killer, lest he be blamed. And Incarnadine- well, dreams are not only for the living.
If that's not enough, there are chapters that are quizzes- some multiple choise, some essays, some delaing with the story and some completely out of the blue. As well as footnotes, purportedly by the Castle scribe. Confusing? Yes. And I would not recommend starting your journey to Perilous with this one. It is very different and if you are not familiar with the tone and character of the Castle series, you will most likely be turned off a fun, comic fantasy run.
I can't really say what I thought of the book, at the end. It kept me reading, I chuckled more than once, yes, I figured out what was going on (mostly), but there were things that kept jarring me. The quizzes for one. They were odd bits that were stuck in here and there, and I'm not sure of their purpose. The footnotes were amusing, but added little to the book, except a bit of comic relief. This is the fourth of the books I've read (yeah, I'm kind of out of order). I will read the rest, but again, if you haven't read any, start with Castle Perilous, and read the others. I think this one might be best saved for closer to the end of the series.
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