The Dream Hunters is a novella by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. It is a companion story to Gaiman’s The Sandman series. I bought it years ago after reading the entirety of the The Sandman and it is, to date, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned. Somehow, though, it ended up on a top shelf and as I am rather short, I couldn’t see it and so almost forgot that I owned it. I came across it last night while dusting, though, so here we are!
The Dream Hunters was first published in 1999 and won the 2000 Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative. Gaiman’s story and writing is as beguiling as ever, and Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork is stunningly beautiful, completed in charcoal, pencil, and watercolor depending on what the narrative calls for.
The story follows a fox spirit- a kitsune– who ends up falling in love with a Buddhist monk who has sworn an oath to never leave his temple. Meanwhile, a wealthy onmyoji from nearby Ktoto enacts a plan to alleviate his own fears on the advice of three women. This plan results in the monk becoming trapped in a dream while his body sleeps, a state that will ultimately result in his death. The fox goes to the King of All Night’s Dreaming to find a way to save the monk, and adventure ensues.
For its twentieth anniversary, The Dream Hunters was reissued as a comic series with art by P. Craig Russell. From what I’ve seen on Amazon, the new version is the only one available right now, unless you want to pay a few hundred dollars for a copy with Amano’s artwork.
The background of the cover is printed with a metallic ink so that it shines like the gold it’s meant to look like, while the King of All Night’s Dreaming and the kitsune have a matte finish, so the beautiful watercolor details stay true to their medium.
Details of the cover, to show off some of the details and pencil lines that provide shading in the highlights.
I love how Amano’s artwork provides just enough details to illustrate heart of the scene, but leaves the rest to the imagination. Color, shading, and line provide the interest that draws the eye, but aren’t so detailed that they overwhelm or detract from the characters.
A four-page fold out spread shows the dizzying aspect of the King of All Night’s Dreaming.
Detail of the King of All Night’s Dreaming as he listens to the story of the monk and the fox.