2016 Reading Challenge Book 39 – Black Dog

Hi, Hey, Hello!

So, the good news is that there are only 2 more book reviews for the 2016 Reading Challenge to get wrapped up. And then we move onto this year’s, which I will need to do a catch up on so far but soon it shall all be up to date.

For now though we have this:

2016 Reading Challenge, Book 39, Black Dog

2016 Reading Challenge, Book 39, Black Dog

My last two books of the year were by Neil Gaiman because I love him and 2 of these books were short enough to read in a couple of hours. I read this over my lunch (and a bit after) on one of those weird days between Christmas and New Year and it was so much fun to go back to Shadow and that world that Gaiman has created. So much fun. And this book was somehow even more gorgeously illustrated than American Gods. It was just full of the most stunning pages and illustrations that made the reading of the book all the better as an experience.

This book works as a standalone from American Gods and in some ways I enjoyed it more, mainly because it was a total contrast to it. Not in terms of the world created or the nature of the story, but probably because it wasn’t such a slow burn of a story. Don’t get me wrong I love a slow burn (two of my favourite books ever are one of those) but sometimes one that gets straight to the point is what you need. And that’s what this is.

It jumps straight into the action and doesn’t let up until the end, when it finally releases its grip on you and you can close the (stunning) cover of the book and try and carry on with life. There is probably a metaphor in there in somewhere…

The tale is simple, Shadow is basically a wanderer and he somehow ends up in the spare room of a English couple and with that comes a whole lotta mystery. I absolutely adored the way in which Gaiman just sort of dropped all these breadcrumbs throughout that came to head in the final pages in the most satisfying (if somewhat grim) of ways.

Obviously I got to know Shadow relatively well in the colossus that was American Gods,  and so it was nice to get to see him again. But the new characters in this were interesting to get to know albeit briefly. Moira in particular was interesting as she seemed to be the most mysterious of the ‘new’ characters as she seemed aware of what was happening and yet she seemed to just continually turn a blind eye to it, and even buy into the black dog myth. Cassie was an equally mysterious character and discovering the end of her story was so sad and also so unexpected…yet somehow it all made sense.

The metaphor that was the black dog was an interesting element of the narrative. And a rather large part of it. The way that it all came together in the end was brutal, but as I mentioned earlier, it was satisfying. It felt like something huge had been conquered and that in itself is part of what made it so satisfying. I mean, basically the black dog, in my eyes anyway, was the physical manifestation of Oliver’s depression. Or fear. Or all of the dark stuff that lived inside of him. Seeing it being conquered in the end was, yeah, satisfying.

The illustrations (yeah, they need to be mentioned again) were so stunning and so fitting. They were perfect. They made the whole reading experience so much more enjoyable. I also randomly discovered that I get quite the thrill out of reading words off a black page. I cannot tell you why, but I just do.

Overall as tends to be the way with Gaiman’s work, I would definitely recommend giving it a read. You don’t have to have read American Gods in order to understand it as it works as a standalone novella. And a very good one at that.

4/5 stars

Parentheses count: 5. See you tomorrow!

 

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