Litany of Dreams (releasing April 13, 2021) is the fifth Arkham Horror novel from Aconyte Books (the fiction publishing arm of board game publisher Asmodee). The Arkham Horror universe has a rich cast of dozens who have appeared across a variety of games, but (as is standard for Aconyte’s board-game-IP novels) enjoying Litany of Dreams does not require knowledge of that universe.
Litany of Dreams is presents a horror story of supernatural behavioral contagion – an unintelligible chant that infects the listener’s mind, giving them an intense urge to themselves begin chanting the strange syllables (coincidentally, this sort of verbal contagion features in one of the stories in the recent Dungeons & Dragons adventure compendium, Candlekeep Mysteries).
The protagonists of Litany of Dreams are Elliot Raslo (a psychology student at Miskatonic University), Billy Shiwak (an Inuit from Greenland), and Daisy Walker (a librarian at the university). Long-time Arkham Horror fans will recognize Daisy Walker as an established character in the Arkham Horror universe; the other two are not.
Elliot is the primary protagonist, prompted by a search for his missing roommate and troubled by a mysterious chant he can’t get out of his head. He becomes entangled with Billy (who is searching for a stolen artifact) and Daisy (who wants to be helpful, to a point). The three work together, but not entirely in concert, as their personal goals sometimes conflict, which makes Litany of Dreams stand out in a genre that more commonly features a single protagonist or a cohesive team. Elliot’s goals are the primary viewpoint, but the others tend to carry more of the workload in actually advancing their investigation, except when Elliot’s pre-existing knowledge of his roommate’s activities becomes pertinent. How relatable the reader finds Elliot may depend on whether they find his shortcomings humanizing or vexing.
Like The Mask of Silver, Litany of Dreams includes some exploration of minority status. There it was treatment of Asian-Americans; here it primarily relates to how Billy is perceived as an indigenous circumpolar person (I suppose the other minority status is a spoiler, although it’s very obvious very early in the book). This most commonly involves Billy correcting people when they refer to him as an Eskimo (thankfully, being from Greenland, Billy is actually an Inuit, and we don’t have to wade into the way that term is occasionally misapplied to non-Inuit peoples), but is not limited to terminology. As I noted in my review for Mask of Silver, I think that addressing these sorts of issues within the ‘Lovecraftian’ horror genre is a good thing, given Lovecraft’s well-documented racism.
Obviously, being an Arkham Horror novel, Litany of Dreams includes Lovecraftian elements, but it also has some “hillbilly horror” (with a twist), so there’s more gunplay than is typical for the genre. Horrors are both real and dreamed, as the strain on Elliot’s own mind grows. After the opening scene, Litany of Dreams has a slow boil – there are stops and starts to the investigation, and the leads are incremental, rather than whipsawing the reader through the plot.
Overall, Litany of Dreams is a solid read if you’re looking for slowly rising tension, investigation that’s as much social as it is mental, personal conflict, and a mix psychological horror and backwoods maniacs.
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