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Yesterday's Dreams
Danielle Ackley-McPhail
Vivisphere paperback £16

review by Duncan Lawie

Yesterday's Dreams is a modern Celtic fairy tale set in New York. Such a summary offers every possibility of total disaster, but the author is better than that. The protagonist is Kara, a native New Yorker and an only child of an Irish father. As the book opens, the family has money worries. Patrick's earning ability has declined with his health so Kara, a music teacher, decides to pawn her most valuable possession, a violin which once belonged to her grandfather O'Keefe. She chooses a pawnshop called Yesterday's Dreams. The proprietor of this shop is a Sidhe who has been in New York for 200 years, watching over the O'Keefe clan as part of an ancient vow.
   In this book, the Sidhe are very Irish elves - they all speak in brogue, as does every other Irish-born individual in America, apparently, and the written form of this accent is painful to read. Nevertheless, the author seems to have read her Celtic mythology thoroughly, so these immortals do adhere to a believably Celtic ritual. She has also put some thought into the framework of the magic so the powers and gifts present in the book seem to have a reasonable internal definition. Nevertheless, Yesterday's Dreams has the feel of a first novel. There is a tendency to overwrite: "she lay there exhausted, strung out from yet another troubled night" presents itself in the first page of chapter one; multiple adjectives are regularly used when one, carefully chosen, would have worked better. Another error which screams the need for better editorial input is the misuse of 'that' when 'who' or, more rarely, 'which' should have been chosen. These annoyances build up into an obstruction between the reader and the story and their resolution could easily add another star to the book's score.
   Clearly, there is room for improvement but Ackley-McPhail has the makings of a good author. There are the bones of a good story present in this book. It is well structured and the characterisation is generally competent. She has chosen the scale of her work carefully, telling a reasonably small story reasonably well but this is an 'overture'; Yesterday's Dreams resolves the immediate plot while the larger issues have been broached and await further volumes. It is to be hoped that Ackley-McPhail will carry on, growing her themes, her story and her skills.
Yesterday's Dreams
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