The Dark Volume

In finishing this book, Dorothy Parker came to mind... "This is not a novel to be tossed lightly aside. It should be thrown with great force."

The greatest joy that I experienced with this book came when I was finally finished and could set it aside. I disliked The Dark Volume so intensely that my opinion of the first book (in what is now clearly intended to be a series), The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, was actually tainted by association.

Gordon Dahlquist, what happened? Oh wait, I know. The large amounts of studied creativity, character development and lavish scenery gave way to the deep need to keep things going in a serial format, and thus yielded a book where very little was described in valuable detail and a great deal happened, but almost none of it was of any consequence. I may have only spent nine days reading this (or rather, trying to read this, as I couldn't ever say that I got into it enough to the point where I experienced any pains in setting it down, even in the middle of a sentence), but it felt like the longest nine days that I've experienced in a great while. As a result, not only was I frustrated, but anyone who happened to be around me while I read this was incensed against the book, too. My significant other implored me to stop reading it, as he could hardly take my growls of annoyance and exasperated exclamations of, "Just die already!" (which were directed at multiple characters throughout the course of the novel).

And as far as trajectory, well, we seem to have ended up in the exact same damn place, only everyone is much dirtier. (Though admittedly, that clearly is the goal of the author, to expose the darker, corrosive side of what might seem an alluring power. Still, I was overjoyed when a character stopped to take a bath during this volume.) Confrontation between a large number of characters where the alliances are tenuous at best before everything shatters... I mean honestly, if it was going to lead to such a similar conclusion, what was even gained by the events of this book? At least the last time we saw this tableau, it was aboard a dirigible! (There may be a dirigible on the cover of this book, but there is not one in the book... unless you count references to the sunken one from the first book.) The Dark Volume failed to have anywhere near the same amount of creativity as its predecessor (not to mention that at least The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters took place in interesting locations, whereas we spend the whole of The Dark Volume in destroyed and crumbling buildings, inhaling smoke from explosions, and crawling through the woods while everyone bleeds and vomits). While I'm not necessarily an advocate for Dahlquist spending even more time describing things, perhaps the most crucial oversight was that he failed to explain exactly why we should even care about the events taking place! He relied entirely on our attachment to the characters on the basis of the first novel and made little attempt to endear any of them to us (except, perhaps, for Doctor Svenson who was tormented by his feelings for Mrs. Dujong, but it was hard to feel sympathy when I wanted to stab her repeatedly for being stupid and useless).

And by the end? We still suspect that the majority of the baddies are dead (though again, the only person we know who is still fully functional and at large is the Contessa), and the only difference is that we are led to believe that the majority of the goodies are dead, too... (or course, as with the last book, only a fool really believes it).

I won't bother to explain the plot, I will only suggest that if you have read and enjoyed The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, you should do yourself a favor and not bother to pick up its sequel. I rarely abandon a series, but I doubt that I could survive another installment of this... and besides, I made the arrangement with myself that all I needed to set these books aside with a clear conscience was for a kiss to take place between two particular characters. Having received that small satisfaction, I say farewell to Dahlquist and I curse the urge that drove me to purchase this terrible thing in hardcover.

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