"The fly crawled into the fox's eyeball. She did not blink, although the tickling felt like madness in her mind."
Some stories have to be written; they make your brain itch until you relent and put them down on paper. I can’t say if that was the case with The Dream Hunters but it certainly feels like it was from a reader’s point of view. It’s a novella, not a comic, a fairytale for adults, but one that will stir your withered heart out of its apathetic and cynical safe haven. It'll remind you why life and love deserve more attention than most of us are apt to give in these hurried and dark days.
Gaiman teamed with legendary Japanese illustrator Yoshitaka Amano to achieve the task. Together they created magic. If the book had a soundtrack it would be played on harp strings spun from silk, coupled with the sound forest winds make as they brush past golden leaves. It’s a love story, of sorts, between a Monk and his admirer. If the idea of a love story scares you, it also has a wicked, selfish onmyoji (magician) to keep the narrative from being too one-sided. His story unfolds parallel to the Monk's, as almost a mirror image. It makes sense when you consider the origin of the work and the setting, as you'll discover.
Being a stand-alone means no prior knowledge of the extended Sandman universe is necessary, so it'll make sense on its own. It’s one of those tales where Morpheus makes a cameo, serves as a catalyst for something and then steps aside to allow the story to continue along its own organic path.
Amano compliments Gaiman’s prose with a number of full page paintings in his usual fluidic, sketchy style; the almost translucent watercolours are something you’ll either love or hate. There are occasional cluttered perspectives that make you work hard to find the focal point but at other times the page is almost empty, with a serene, heavenly quality.
Characterisation is slight, forcing the reader to fill the recognisable shapes with their own ideals. I don't believe it's an oversight or sloppy writing. It's more likely a clever trick to make the story more personal than it otherwise could've been.
5 servings of Amano goodness out of 5