James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Uneasy Dreams

Sheine Lende

By Darcie Little Badger 

15 Mar, 2024

Doing the WFC's Homework

1 comment

Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Darcie Little Badger’s 2024 Sheine Lende is modern fantasy novel. Sheine Lende is a prequel to her 2020 Elatsoe.

Shane and her mother Lorenza Solé may not be formally credentialled, but they are both experienced at search and rescue. Not only do mother and daughter bring exemplary skills to the task, but the Lipan Apache pair possess certain magical assets. Thus, one of the dogs that accompany the pair is a ghost.

Shane will need all the advantages she can muster.

The search starts off normally enough. Two siblings, sixteen-year-old Donnie and ten-year-old Bobby, are missing. Nothing unusual in that. However, Lorenza herself disappears while searching for the missing sister and brother. The task of finding her mother then devolves on her nearly as talented but less experienced seventeen-year-old daughter.

Shane takes the first step towards a solution when she inadvertently walks through what in retrospect appears to be a fairie circle. She is immediately transported hundreds of miles. Shane almost immediately encounters Donnie. Bobbie is nowhere to be seen. Ominously, the town in which Shane found Donnie is utterly abandoned, with all the signs of a hurried but organized evacuation.

Fairie circles — fungus-based hyperdimensional transportation nexi — are nothing new in this alternate America. However, the circles through which Shane, Lorenza, Donnie, and Bobbie wandered were not conventional fairie circles. A similar species (not real fairie but close) is creating circles as well.

Mimic circles are far more dangerous than regular circles. This explains the speed at which the abandoned town was evacuated: the US government takes mimic circles very seriously [1]. Unfortunately for Lorenza and Bobby, the government prioritizes protecting the general population over rescuing two lost souls. Known mimic circles are immediately doused in fungicide.

Recovering Lorenza and Bobby requires access to a mimic circle; the task is difficult but doable.

It requires knowledge of mimics that is not generally known. Thanks to a disgraced but cooperative academic, that is also doable.

Bobby was transported to the Afterworld; recovering him is a quest worthy of heroes.

Lorenza was dispatched to a location even less accessible than the Afterworld. Rescuing her will be even more difficult.


Obligatory dead pet acknowledgement. There is a dead pet in the narrative. However, the late pooch is already dead (and still active) by the time the story begins. This isn’t one of those Old Yeller deals.

I say this is fantasy, but one could make a case that it’s science fantasy or maybe even science fiction, focused on as yet unknown science. The circles, mimic and fairie, may seem to be magical but they are also phenomena that mundane 20th century science can grasp and exploit. That is, if the scientists can figure out the inherent hazards of using the circles in order to survive them.

The setting of this novel features ghosts. Not just human ghosts, but animal ghosts as well. Not only that — ghosts of all animals, alive or extinct, could be summoned. Someone with the right aptitude could whistle up the shades of mammoths and other extinct species. It follows that this cannot be generally known [2]. It is all too likely that some people could not resist calling up the ghosts of such species as Phorusrhacidae (terror birds), T. rexes, and Gorgonopsids.

(Yes, yes, even ghost mammoths are potentially dangerous. That’s why we have grad students.)

Most readers are not as obsessive as some reviewers I could mention about the theoretical underpinnings of the setting. Readers care about characters and story. As expected, Little Badger delivers on these fronts, presenting the reader with characters about whose fates readers will care. She also gives the characters challenges whose outcomes are not a foregone conclusion. While this book is aimed at younger readers, death is very definitely among the possible outcomes. Mortality is one of the issues with which characters struggle. That said, the book isn’t a downer. I always look forward to Little Badger books and I have yet to be disappointed. 

Sheine Lende is available for pre-order here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Chapters-Indigo), and here (Words Worth Books).

1: The mimic circles must be very bad news if the government is prepared to sterilize them on sight. Perhaps it’s just that the government hasn’t yet figured out a way to exploit them.

2: The afterlife shown in this book does not conform to Christian expectations. There are many explanations that would explain this, from the Christians being wrong to there being more than one afterlife. Either option raises theological concerns. Or would if people were concerned… The book makes it clear that that most people are very good at ignoring inconvenient facts.