Court of Dreams by Stuart Sharp

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Court of Dreams by Stuart Sharp

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: This is a fantasy realm/real world clash novel without metaphor, hidden meaning or fable-ish morals, just fun, gloom-busting, shut-out-the-day entertainment.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 280 Date: January 2012
Publisher: Pink Narcissus Press
ISBN: 978-0982991329

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Thomas and Nicola are no longer students. Finals finished, Nicola can start planning life after uni and with Thomas... and then he dumps her. To be fair, Thomas has a great job offer abroad and doesn't think that Nicola would want to go but Nicola's still flaming angry. Adhering to the 'and another thing' school of arguing, Nicola tracks Thomas down. He's already busy dealing with someone but being the assertive modern woman she is, Nicola barges in front of the hit man attempting to kill her now ex-boyfriend so she can give him yet another piece of her mind. In the ensuing tussle (hit man trying to skewer Thomas and Thomas trying to prevent Nicola from becoming an ex-person as well as an ex-girlfriend) the formerly blissful couple fall back into a tree... and then onwards, through the tree towards somewhere that's other worldly in all meanings of the phrase. For they land in the Court of Dreams, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Meanwhile the tumble has separated Nicola and Thomas, the hit man is not only determined but also a local lad so knows his way around and Thomas' mother has neglected to tell him a thing or two about his origins, as he's just about to find out.

All fantasy stories are formulaic to some extent within their sub-genres: a sweeping statement but generally true. The mark of a good fantasy author is the ability to provide the reader with as many distractions as necessary for the formula to slip by unnoticed. Blackadder admirer and former urban fantasy writer Stuart Sharp is such an author. There may be glimpses of seams showing in places but something always comes along in the nick of time to ensure that the mechanism remains mostly invisible.

Stuart Sharp's influences definitely show. As in good wine you can detect a hint of Douglas Adams and a sniff of Terry Pratchett but the keynote flavour is pure Sharp. He also uses a clever tactic: an almost womble-like skill for borrowing items from other sources and then giving them a refreshing twist. For instance, there's a magic mirror; very Snow White till you realise this one doles out literary criticism and when asked the question has a more logical response than its fairy tale counterpart. The Nightmare Hunt is another great innovation but I'll leave you to discover that one yourself.

The author also has a knack of transmitting his own enjoyment and you definitely get the feeling that he had a blast when sat before a blank piece of paper and developed the Court and characters. Thomas and Nicola are normal every day students plunged into a realm where anything can happen. Roses have a mind of their own, figments exist (sometimes whilst wearing inadvisably bright Bermuda shorts), a small (only 8ft tall) giant whom you've never met before (with too many pockets in his coat) can threaten your life and Australian barmen have beaks. Siobhan, the Court's Princess and all round piece of nastiness, is a kind of female Shrek Prince Charming, but with more tricks up her sleeve. Her mother, the Queen, is benevolent and even-handed although seasoned with a poignant sadness that affects her thought processes slightly more than it should.

So who's on the side of our Earthly heroes? A few people help out, including the wonderful Simon Stranded, inept local and guide with an eye for the ladies that isn't exactly reciprocated. Thomas can't manage without him but sometimes managing with him is pretty difficult too.

Court of Dreams may not be literary award fodder, but it's absorbing, will make you chuckle out loud and put the worry list on the back burner for a couple of hours. There are days when that's all you need and more than you could hope for.

I would like to thank Pink Narcissus Press for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you've enjoyed this and would like some more fantasy seasoned with humour, try Making Money by Terry Pratchett. It comes with an added dash of topicality.

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Buy Court of Dreams by Stuart Sharp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Court of Dreams by Stuart Sharp at


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