This is by far, my favorite of all the Sandman books. After the letdown of Book 5: A Game of You, this one fully rewarded me for staying loyal to the Dream arc.
A collection of 8 short stories, Fables & Reflections delights with every single tale. First, in ‘Fear of Falling’ we come up against the all-too-familiar fear of failure and discover where it stems from.
‘Three Septembers and a January’ once again shows us the redeeming qualities of Dream as he snatches a defeated man at his lowest low right from the clutches of Despair with a dream that carries him well past his death.
‘Thermidor’ hints at darker plots but it covers the not-lacking-in-intrigue tale of Johanna Constantine (briefly encountered in ‘Men of Good Fortune’ in Book 2: The Doll’s House).
‘The Hunt’ is another sweet, haunting story recounted as a tale told by an old man to his grand-daughter. This one has the flavour of old folk tales, with magic, fairytale drama with a life lesson at the end.
‘August’ delves deep into an untold secret of Emperor Augustus and the living nightmare that defined his life. This one also uses the narrative style of the above, switching between past and present, but in the style of a memoir rather than folktale.
‘Soft Places’ explores an aspect of the dreaming, the realm of the Sandman through the incredible experience of a young man, later revealed to be the explorer Marco Polo. We also briefly encounter the charming Fiddler’s Green (from Book 2: The Doll’s House).
‘Orpheus’ reveals some part of the mystery of the decapacitated, singing head from ‘Thermidor’. This story is not new to anyone familiar to Greek mythology but what’s novel is it’s anchoring within the universe of the Endless, positioning the doomed lover-poet as Dream’s son by Calliope (from Book 3: Dream Country).
In ‘The Parliament of Rooks’ we meet several characters who briefly appeared in earlier stories. Daniel, the boy born in dreams to Lyta and now-dead Hector Hall (Book 2: The Doll’s House), Cain and Abel (Book 1: Preludes & Nocturnes) join Eve and Matthew the raven for a story-telling session. This tale-within-tale format gives us the truth behind the origin story and what the rooks are really doing together.
And finally ‘Ramadan’ is a beautifully illustrated story of the city of Haroun Al Raschid, so tender that it wrenches your heart. This one is my favorite of all the stories in this book.