Sabledrake Magazine

November, 2002


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Book Review

Yesterday's Dreams



I've said it before and I hope to have many occasions to say it again: reviewing books has got to be my favorite part of this editing gig. I've been a voracious reader for most of my life but I have a tendency to stick to re-reading the same books in the same genre. It's only been over these past few years that I've started expanding my reading horizons and have found out how wonderfully rewarding it can be to explore these strange new worlds.

Best of all, I can in this limited venue offer support to my fellow struggling authors. As I've learned all too well, writing the book is the easy part. Getting it published, and then getting it out there to the readers that's where the real work comes in. A lot of that revolves around who you know and what sort of connections you can make.

That's how, in a roundabout sort of way, I'm able to bring the readers of Sabledrake this review of Danielle Ackley-McPhail's Yesterday's Dreams. Last issue, I reviewed Morevi by Tee Morris and Lisa Lee. Tee was kind enough to then recommend me to other writers of his acquaintance, which was how I came to hear from Danielle. She sent me a copy of her debut novel, and offered herself up as sacrificial victim for something that I've never done before: to be the subject of an author interview.

Yesterday's Dreams is a trade paperback from ViviSphere Publishing. It is a crisp and well put together book, with eye-appealing creamy paper and good readable dark print, accented throughout with nifty Celtic knotworky chapter headings that enhance the overall theme of the novel. I must confess that the cover didn't immediately grab me, since it took me a couple of chapters to smack my forehead in realization that the soft-focus yellow and silver object on the front represented the violin that plays such a key role in the story.

The main character of Yesterday's Dreams is Kara O'Keefe, a young music teacher who makes the wrenching decision to pawn her prized heirloom violin, Quicksilver, to help her family's ailing financial situation. She is drawn to the shop of Maggie McCormick, an enigmatic woman with hidden connections to Kara's family, their past, and their Irish heritage. But Maggie's shop is also of key interest to Lucien Black, whose body hosts a malevolent spirit with a hunger for objects of power.

Danielle's writing, particularly her flair for character and description, is superb. I was captivated by the mental image of the pawn shop's interior and the fascinating items that filled its shelves. The language is laden with dialectical spelling, something I normally don't care for, but in this book it seemed right. It would have seemed strange, rather, to not have "ye" and "o'" and "'tis" sprinkled in the dialogue. A short glossary of the Gaelic terms used in the book is handily provided at the back, though it doesn't include pronunciations and as I'm no scholar of Celtic lore, I know I'd botch it if I were reading aloud.

As the story unfolds, Kara is drawn into a conflict between forces of good that seek to protect her, and forces of evil that seek to destroy or control her. She plays a part similar to the classic hero, not unlike Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter - a strongly talented individual with only the barest knowledge of the mystical world into which she is suddenly thrown. As such, her role is more of a reactive one, while she struggles to understand the legacy left to her by her grandfather.

The primary active role is filled by Maggie, who is the one to marshal her Sidhe allies against Lucien Black and his henchman, a habitually luckless street punk of Gypsy descent named Tony. Maggie wields magic with ease, is amusingly frustrated by her efforts to befriend her neighbor (gifted with the Sight, Molly is one of the few to recognize Maggie for what she truly is), and has an endearing companion her "little shadow." This, the Beag Scath, is a spritish sort of familiar who, along with Kara's car Pixie, provides a gentle comic relief without being an overly cute and cloying Disneyesque sidekick.

The book is only 229 pages in length and yet it manages to present, weave, and satisfactorily conclude many plot threads: the health problems of Kara's father and how it affects his relationship with his wife and his doctor, the poignant romance between Maggie and an alluring musician, the history of the O'Keefes and their ties to the Sidhe, and Tony's struggles to carry out Lucien's orders are all cleverly melded against a background of Celtic mythology. The lore of the Sidhe is expertly and subtly handled, made very real and personal by how closely it ties in with the characters.

Yesterday's Dreams is a compelling tale of love, family, and sacrifice. It blends modern day with ancient magic in a good, sink-your-teeth-in, readable novel that fantasy fans should enjoy. Danielle's 'about the author' blurb mentions her own Celtic heritage and love of fantasy, and it's the opinion of this humble reviewer that she did a wonderful job bringing them together.

Don't miss this writer's Interview with Danielle or her excerpt from the upcoming sequel, Tomorrow's Memories, special in this issue of Sabledrake!


Title: Yesterday's Dreams
Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  USA - $16.00
Trade Paperback - 229 pag

review by Christine Morgan



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