REVIEW: Through Dreams So Dark by Angela Boord

Through Dreams So Dark is a dark portal fantasy by Angela Boord that hearkens back to some of the great classics of Russian literature in both its story and its epic scope.

Through Dreams So DarkThrough Dreams So Dark begins in our own world in the 1980s as we are introduced to the lead protagonist, Sergei Preobrazhensky, a young man from a Russian émigré family now living in the American Midwest. Sergei’s mother is missing and presumed dead after helping her family flee across the Iron Curtain.

Plagued by bizarre hyper-realistic dreams, Sergei is determined to understand his family’s past and find closure with respect to his missing mother. Sergei is helped by his best friend and college roommate, Cameron, and an excellent cast of supporting characters as they discover a portal called the Lake which leads to a parallel fantasy world.

On the other side of the portal, Sergei and friends discover a dark fantasy world with warring tribes and contentious magic. Connections between the parallel worlds develop slowly over the course of the book, with plenty of unexpected twists along the way.

Angela Boord’s prose is compulsively readable, blending a 1980s Stranger Things vibe with a Bulgakovian sense of humor. The beginning of the book is perfectly executed, including some incisive humor that made me laugh out loud:

“At first, I cursed at him in Russian, because I’m polite like that. After I got to know him, I still cursed in Russian, but I used his name so he’d know I was cursing him.”

However, the rest of the book carries on for Tolstoyan lengths, which slowly sapped away my enjoyment of the story. At nearly 900 pages, Through Dreams So Dark would benefit from some significant cuts to tighten up its plot and pacing.

My favorite part of Through Dreams So Dark are the subtle nods to classic Russian literature. For example, Sergei’s family name, Preobrazhensky, is taken from famed Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s Soviet-era novella, Heart of a Dog, a biting takedown of the Communist party’s embrace of eugenics.

Angela Boord echoes a similar theme in Through Dreams So Dark, which features a potential Soviet conspiracy involving eugenics-tinged laboratory experiments. She pairs this with the enduring Russian émigré experience, a staple in Vladimir Nabokov’s canon of literature.

Through Dreams So Dark is recommended for fans of classic Russian literature and for anyone who enjoys a well-written portal fantasy. I originally reviewed Through Dreams So Dark as part of the Before We Go Blog team for SPFBO9.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.