“The Sandman: The Kindly Ones” by Neil Gaiman
[“The Kindly Ones” is installment 9 – of 10! – of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. This one is illustrated by Marc Hempel, Richard Case, D’Israeli, Teddy Kristiansen, Glyn Dillon, Charles Vess, Dean Ormston, and Kevin Nowlan.]
This installment is where s$#t gets real.
In what I would probably call the grand finale of the whole Sandman series (though I haven’t yet read #10, I can’t imagine a climax bigger than the event at the end of “The Kindly Ones”) characters re-surface, characters die, and things change – big time.
It all begins with those three sisters from the first volume, and soon we’re brought to where Lyta Hall, now mother to Morpheus’ baby Daniel, is off on a date/job interview. While she’s gone, Daniel is taken – and no one knows where. Furious, hell-bent on revenge, and having a breakdown, Lyta goes in search of Morpheus.
From here on out, there’s going to be spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In essence, this volume is about the end of days. The three sisters/furies/The Kindly Ones, triggered by Lyta, make their way to the DreamWorld.
Lots of familiar faces re-appear; The Corinthian is re-made, and Loki, Rose, Thessaly, Hal, Zelda, and the two sisters from “The Doll’s House” show up – some for moments, some for the duration. (Rose, by the end, is pregnant. And Desire has revealed to Rose that she is her Grandfather. That’s probably important.)
Delirium has already lost Barnabus (the dog she was gifted in volume #7.) She wanders around looking for the dog, encountering Lucifer, who now plays piano in a fancy restaurant. Random, right?
Nuala’s faerie brother comes back for her and Morpheus lets her return to her people, where she is restored to her former beauty – and is promptly miserable. She calls on Morpheus and asks him to tell her he loves her. Unbeknownst to Nuala, Morpheus’ leaving the DreamWorld to come to her is the catalyst for his destruction.
The roster of people who die in this volume is large, and sad. Gilbert/Fiddler’s Green, Abel, Mervyn, Gryphon, and finally even Morpheus himself. Morpheus’ death is incredibly touching, as it’s a throwback to the sequence in the first volume where he and Death sit side by side and feed birds. Immediately after Death takes Morpheus’ hand and he vanishes, baby Daniel (who’s back in the DreamCastle) transforms into an all-white version of Morpheus.
(Goldie is fine at the end. Thank Goodness. And Lucien was once a Raven. Who knew?)
I loved it – all of it – despite the obvious sadness over having to say goodbye to characters I’ve become irrevocably attached to over the past few weeks. I’m excited to see ends get tied up in the final volume of the series, “The Wake.” Though I’m really expecting some questions to just never get answered. I doubt Mr. Gaiman is just going to show up and explain it all. That doesn’t seem like his way.