Perhaps the title of the book provides some clues to the over-arching themes of these stories. However, there is more at hand than the conflict between reality and fantasy that is to be expected in anything whose main character is the bringer of dreams. In 'Fear of Falling,' a young actor finds his courage in a frightening dream. And in 'Three Septembers and a January,' we are given the tale of Joshua Norton, the Emperor of the United States, who found happiness in the give of insanity. Then it suddenly is July in revolutionary Paris. Thermidor tells the story of a woman bearing the head of Orpheus, due to sing the song that will end one dream and begin another.
Next, a book shows a werewolf lost in a dream of love the path to its reality love. In 'August,' a Roman emperor gains the secret of how to hide from his fears. 'Soft Places' finds Marco Polo wandering the desert separated from his caravan. Or perhaps, he is only wandering in his mind. The grand piece of the book is a lengthy retelling of the legend of Orpheus, which provides some explanation for the future wanderings of his disembodied head. In 'Parliament of Rooks,' the arguments of Cain and Abel invade the sleep of a young child. In the final story Haroun al Raschid, the ruler of Baghdad, bargains with the Lord of Dreams for a special kind of eternity.
All the stories are linked by theme and variation, as well as the presence of the Sandman. Perhaps, intentionally, the relationships are vague and hard to pin down, using the touch of chaos to enhance the dreamlike quality. Of course, the advantage is to the author, who needs to tell only enough to keep the reader interested. In addition to the drawn illustrations, the book makes excellent use of digital and photographic work to enhance the effect of the stories themselves. The overall design, the product of Dave McKean, is remarkable, enhancing instead of competing with the stories themselves.