REVIEW: Dreams of Sorrow by Shauna Lawless

Last Updated on July 3, 2024

Dreams of Sorrow is the second novella from author Shauna Lawless. Set in her Gael Song world, it is a powerful piece of short fiction and will be hugely enjoyed by fans of her writing. Chronologically, Dreams of Sorrows takes place before the events of the Gael Song novels, but it should not be a new reader’s first venture into this world. If you have not yet read Lawless’ books, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men and The Words of Kings and Prophets, you must do so before reading this novella, or you risk spoiling certain key plot elements for yourself.

Cover of Dreams of Sorrow Set in medieval Ireland, Dreams of Sorrow is the short but heart breaking tale of Senna. Senna is fifteen, in love, and content with how her life will be. Until, out of fear, she unwittingly performs magic and discovers she is a witch – a Descendant of the mythical Tuatha dé Danaan. Senna flees from the only home she has ever known and seeks protection and education from other Descendants – kind elderly Anaile, his charismatic son Tomas, and a fellow witch Gobnat. But there are consequences to leaving her mortal life for her magical one. Senna is faced with a choice to make which will shape her life in a way she never could have predicted.

In my review of Lawless’ other novella, Dreams of Fire, I made a similar point: it takes a highly skilled author to pack such an emotional punch into their short fiction. Well, Lawless has done it again. I know and love this world; I knew who almost all the characters were before I began, but I have gained a greater understanding of those who appeared here. Reading Dreams of Sorrow has exponentially increased all the feelings of rage and sorrow that I felt on Senna’s behalf at the end of The Words of Kings and Prophets.

At only one hundred pages, Dreams of Sorrows is a swift read, but after reading I am left with many swirling emotions.  I feel more than just a tremendous amount of sympathy for Senna, and what is stolen from her, but also there are characters I did not think it was possible to dislike more, and yet now I do. This novella has the same beautiful style as Lawless’ other works but it is a sharper story with the plot spanning only a few days. Dreams of Sorrow is a literary amuse-bouche before we return to the next full-length novel in the Gael Song series.

I love Lawless’ female-focused fantasy and immensely enjoyed learning more about a character that we have known very little about thus far. I hope that Senna plays a more significant role as the series concludes. In terms of darker elements for grimdark fans, there is not much in the novella due to its length, but if you judge it in terms of the series as a whole, I believe that there is a lot of appeal. Luckily for me, the final novel in the series, The Land of the Living and the Dead, is out in September 2024, so I only have a short time left to wait. I want to thank Shauna Lawless and the team at Head of Zeus / Ad Astra for sending me an eARC of Dreams of Sorrow for review.

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.

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