“At first, I cursed at him in Russian, because I’m polite like that. After I got to know him, I still cursed in Russian, but I used his name so he’d know I was cursing him.”
Through Dreams So Dark is an epic portal fantasy by Angela Boord that hearkens back to some of the great classics of Russian literature in both its story and its length.
Through Dreams So Dark begins in the 1980s, featuring lead protagonist, Sergei Preobrazhensky, a young man from a Russian émigré family now living in the American Midwest. Sergei’s mother is missing and presumed dead after helping her family flee across the Iron Curtain.
Plagued by bizarre hyper-realistic dreams, Sergei is determined to understand his family’s past and find closure with respect to his missing mother. Sergei is helped by his best friend and college roommate, Cameron, and an excellent cast of supporting characters as they discover a portal to a parallel fantasy world.
Sergei’s family name, Preobrazhensky, is taken from famed Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s Soviet-era novella, Heart of a Dog, a biting takedown of the Communist party’s embrace of eugenics. Angela Boord echoes a similar theme in Through Dreams So Dark, which features a potential Soviet conspiracy involving eugenics-tinged laboratory experiments. She pairs this with the classic Russian émigré experience, which is a staple in Vladimir Nabokov’s canon of literature.
Angela Boord’s prose is compulsively readable, blending a 1980s Stranger Things vibe with a Bulgakovian sense of humor. The beginning of the book is perfectly executed until around the 20% mark. Unfortunately, the rest of the book drags on for Tolstoyan lengths, which slowly sapped away my enjoyment of the story. At nearly 900 pages, Through Dreams So Dark would benefit from some significant cuts to tighten up its plot and pacing.
As much as I loved the first part of the book, Through Dream So Dark is, regrettably, a cut for SPFBO9. Still, I recommend this book for fans of classic Russian literature and for anyone who enjoys a well-written portal fantasy, so please check it out at Amazon.