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Check It Out: Fantasies that take place in a dark world

December 04, 2010|By Allen Kesinger

When most people think of fantasy, chances are they'll conjure up images of dragons, damsels, swords and sorcery. One subgenre of fantasy will often contain narratives set in dark worlds, where evil runs rampant and the light of hope must wade through a sea of darkness. Dark fantasy may contain elements of traditional fantasy, but often the worlds they inhabit are grim, ugly dystopias or modern-day urban environments. No matter the setting, these works of dark fantasy are a long way from light-hearted stories of fairies and unicorns.

"The Child Thief" by Brom is a retelling of J. M. Barrie's "Peter Pan," but with a twist. Instead of a young boy whisking children away to Neverland, where they can play and never grow up, Peter searches for "lost" children (who have been orphaned or emotionally troubled) and promises them a life of happiness in the land of Avalon. However, Avalon is nothing like Neverland. It is a place that has become twisted by mysterious creatures leading a war of fiery conquest on the magical realm.

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Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" tells the story of Dream, a god who personifies stories and dreams. When he is captured by a human in order to obtain his powers, Dream bides his time until he can free himself. After being released, he returns to his realm only to find that it has fallen into ruin. Making matters worse is the discovery that several of his minions, including the embodiment of nightmares, have fled into the real world and have begun to wreak havoc. Dream begins a journey to regain his power and rein in those who do harm against humans.

Not all fantasy has to take place in the realm of rolling green hills and dense, magical forests. Jim Butcher's "Storm Front" is set in modern day Chicago and follows the exploits of Harry Dresden — a professional wizard for hire. While on a missing persons case, Dresden is contacted by the Chicago police to examine a crime scene involving the murder of a man and a woman, the latter being a bodyguard for a mob boss. Throughout his investigation, Dresden will encounter fairies, vampires, warlocks and even a toad demon as he searches for answers.

If you're looking for some dark, supernatural fantasy, look no farther than H.P. Lovecraft's "Dunwich Horror and Other Stories," an anthology of several famous stories such as "The Dunwich Horror," which tells the story of a troubled man whose tutelage under his grandfather (a sorcerer) gives him visions of seeking out the fabled Necronomicon. "Call of Cthulhu" is a story in three parts that involves a mysterious, but terrifying creature that is worshipped by a strange cult. "The Whisperer in the Darkness" involves the discovery of a race of technologically advanced beings.

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org. For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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