This was tricky. Sandman Fables and Reflections (1993) Review

Happy New Year everyone!

I put off reviewing Sandman Fables and Reflections for a while because I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Its length was intimidating, this collection of standalone stories contains not four, not five but nine stories!

Also, some of the stories are heavily based on certain myths and historical contexts. Since I knew very little about most of the histories conceiving a review was difficult.

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The struggle was real.

So, despite my historical ignorance and the book’s length I am going to review Fables and Reflections, presenting little mini-reviews of each story and making a conclusion based on the number of stories I liked and didn’t like.

Let’s start with the first and shortest story in the volume, Fear of Falling.

I liked this one. It was simple and concise. The protagonist starts out acting unwisely and making bad decisions, so when a paranormal entity (Morpheus) shows him the errors of his ways, he changes and becomes prosperous. It’s a simple but effective little tale.

Three Septembers and a January – This is probably my second favorite story out of the whole volume, it was emotionally and philosophically uplifting. In a series of scenes taking place years apart the story shows how a man, with a delusional but comforting belief, can live a great life. It’s a touching fable.

Thermidor – This was an interesting story. I thought the protagonist was a little bland hence I found parts of the story a bit boring. The ending was good; the protagonist’s mission was wrapped up nicely and the antagonist’s demise was quite satisfying but overall, it was just decent.

The Hunt – I liked the framing device with the old man trying to tell his sassy granddaughter the story but I didn’t get a lot out of the story itself. It seemed like a basic medieval fairy-tale; it had most of the motifs like castles, forests, witches, a princess and a quest. The twist at the very end was a nice little surprise but I thought the story as a whole just wasn’t that interesting.

August – This was decent, it was a bit heavy on dialogue for me but still a decent story. It’s essentially about Julius Caesar pretending to be a beggar for a day with a dwarf actor. The conversations are too long and at times they feel pointless. However, as they talk through the day you get little hints of Caesar’s past and his motivations behind his strange act. Not great but you can’t put it down.

Soft Places – This is probably my least favorite story out of the whole volume. For me there were too many captions describing the scene and too much dialogue. Some of the dialogue between Marco and Rustichello was amusing and it was nice to see Fiddler’s Green again but a lot of the story seemed pointless. Marco is really inactive; his desire is to find his father and uncle but he doesn’t really do anything to find them. He just hears some stories, meets Morpheus and then gets sent back to his father and uncle. Maybe if I knew more about Marco Polo I would’ve gotten more out of it but reading it as it is with my current knowledge it didn’t impress me.

Orpheus – This is honestly the best Sandman story I’ve read. Like Fear of Falling it’s simple but effective; we meet Orpheus, we understand his great love for his fiancée and his great pain when his love dies on their wedding night. You feel Orpheus’ despair as he tries everything, even going down to the underworld to get his fiancée back. With a heart-breaking ending, I think Orpheus is an unpredictable and emotionally blunt story and the best of Gaiman’s work I’ve seen.

The Parliament of Rooks – This was another good one. It doesn’t really have a plot, it’s essentially a bunch of characters telling each other stories but we do get insights into the characters’ backstories (including Morpheus). It shows more of Morpheus’ world, showing his minions together in their spare time and how Cain and Abel became a part of the realm. It’s an easy little story told in the dark, fantastical Sandman style.

Ramadan – This was another ‘interesting’ one. Most of the story is told through captions similar to Soft Places so we don’t really get up close to the characters but I don’t think you’re supposed to. It explores the origin of Ramadan, an Islamic holiday, so the story is entirely based on Islamic mythology. As someone who is unfamiliar with those myths I did get something out of Ramadan on an intellectual level. It’s a fascinating tale about a king who summons Morpheus to help him preserve the beauty of his kingdom. Not much emotional value but still a good, engaging story.

In conclusion, out of the whole volume there was one story I didn’t like, five stories I did like and three I thought were just ok. I’d say that Fables and Reflections is definitely worth reading for those golden five, four of them aren’t great but it’s still worth the read.

I give Fables and Reflections a strong 7 out of 10.

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