Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Sandman: The Doll's House

This second Sandman collection contains standalone tales as well as a continuation of the story arc that began in the first stories, collected in Preludes and Nocturnes. It opens with"Tales in the Sand," a story set in ancient Africa - or might it be an Africa in the far future? It is a story within a story, told during a warrior's coming of age ceremony, about Sandman (they call him Kai'ckul) and an ancient ruler, and their star-crossed love. I loved the feeling of archetypes at work, the sense of wonder that folktales evoke, as well as the insights the tale offers into the psyche of Dream.

The following stories move into the present, as we see Dream still having to deal with the consequences of his decades-long imprisonment described in the first book. Several of the more nightmarish denizens of his world have escaped into the waking world, where they are wreaking all kind of disturbing and grim havoc, and he must track them down. We also meet more of Dream's siblings, Desire and Despair, who appear to be plotting against him as they contrive to hatch a plan involving a young girl named Rose. Rose is the granddaughter of Unity Kincaid, one of the victims of the sleeping sickness that afflicted people all over the world when Dream was imprisoned. Unity had been raped while she slept, conceived a child and delivered it, all while sleeping. Rose is plagued with unusual, foreboding dreams, and her sense of isolation and confusion only increases when she is sent off on her own to track down her missing younger brother.

I very much enjoyed the first Sandman collection, and this one packs an even more powerful punch. The stories are dark and dreamlike yet have a sharp, realistic and often disturbing edge to them. I love the standalone stories, and the fact that the nature of Dream and the Endless make it perfectly natural to have tales set in the Middle Ages as well as modern times, to weave back and forth through time and geographical location as the stories dictate. I love the sense of mythology, the different styles of artwork that lend themselves so well to the telling of each particular story, and the emotional impact of the tales. The collection is a fascinating combination of fantasy and horror, the kind of fantasy that surprises and delights, and the kind of horror that crawls under your skin and makes you shudder. It's horribly delightful!

This second collection includes:
1. "Tales in the Sand"
2. "The Doll's House"
3. "Moving In"
4. "Playing House"
5. "Men of Good Fortune"
6. "Collectors"
7. "Into the Night"
8. "Lost Hearts."

Books in the Sandman series:
1. Preludes & Nocturnes (collects The Sandman #1-8)
2. The Doll's House (collects The Sandman #9-16)
3. Dream Country (collects The Sandman #17-20)
4. Season of Mists (collects The Sandman #21-28)

5. A Game of You (collects The Sandman #32-37)
6. Fables and Reflections (collects The Sandman #29- 1, #38-40, #50, Sandman Special #1 and Vertigo Preview #1)
7. Brief Lives (collects The Sandman #41-49)
8. World's End (collects The Sandman #51- 56)9. The Kindly Ones (collects The Sandman #57-69)
10. The Wake (collects The Sandman #70-75)

The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, and Steve Parkhouse (DC Comics, 1995, 1990)

Also reviewed at:
Once Upon a Bookshelf: "Okay, yeah, I totally enjoyed this one more than the first. Loved the story of the whole collection, but especially the prologue at the beginning – the folk-tale like story that tells of the woman and the Dream Lord falling in love."
Rhinoa's Ramblings: "Gripping and deeply disturbing, it introduces some more of Dream's family and explains more of their role in our realm. They are not supposed to manipulate humans, it is the other way around but some seem to forget this."
Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-Holic: "Gaiman looks at the blackest side of the human heart in The Doll's House. He truly has a gift of insight into the human psyche. And he knows what makes people scared....But it is also a fantastic read!!"


  1. The Bitten to Death series looks interesting...but is it too sci-fi for me??

  2. I'd say the series is very action/adventure, espionage with a combination of some supernatural elements. I really like the characters - I'm not sure if you'd like it. You could give the first book 50 pages (my usual rule of thumb) and see what you think!

  3. I really need to read more from this series. The library has random volumes of it, though, which is really annoying!

  4. Kailana - That is annoying. Aside from the standalone stories, the others really build on each other (from what I've seen so far), so I'd definitely recommend reading them in order. :-(

  5. I'm glad you liked it! I do agree that the volumes build on each other - there's stuff in this volume that comes back (a lot!) later on in the series. I love that about Sandman. :)

  6. Jenny - I like that about the series, too (and about series in general). When it's done well, it really gives it depth.

  7. I am so glad you are enjoying the series. The next volume, Dream Country, is one of my favorite volumes and has some really nice stories in it. I look forward to your thoughts on that one.

  8. Carl - I have finished the next one, but haven't written the review yet. I loved it! They just get better and better, don't they. It's one of those series where I know I'm going to feel such a pang when I get to the end. But at the same time I know I'll be revisiting them - there's just so much there, that I think each reading would bring a slightly different experience, if that makes any sense.


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