House of Whispers Vol 1: The Power Divided by Neil Gaiman, Nalo Hopkinson
Art by Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Colour by John Rauch
DC Vertigo, pb, £7.78
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Erzulie Freda is the Voodoo goddess of love and beauty. Her home, the House of Dahomey, is a place of music, food, and parties. But when four human girls unwitting release a Dreaming plague, sending spirits to the Dreaming, leaving their bodies empty and waiting for death, her house is thrown from its place beyond the fringes of reality and into the Dreaming.
Broken by the absence of Daniel, Lord of Dreams, the Dreaming is not a friendly place, and madness descends upon the visitors until they can no longer retain their original shapes and must give in to their darker sides to find a way home.
Each of the three books that follow on from The Dreaming; Books of Magic, The Infernal Comedy, and House of Whispers, have different artists and colourists which means each book, although technically part of the same series, feels very different. House of Whispers is a celebration of colour. So even though the story is as dark as the others, it is given a sinister dimension through the bright colours.
House of Whispers follows two main storylines, that of Erzulie and her battle against madness while trying to find her way back to the edges of reality, and Toya and Maggie as carriers of this new plague. Dreamt up by Erzulie’s nephew, Shakpana, the plague separates the spirit from the body, leaving the person suicidal as they believe they are already dead. The juxtaposition of the bright party streets of New Orleans with the irreversible sickness Maggie knowingly spreads through tourists and residents alike is chilling.
The permanence of the repercussions of Daniel’s absence from the Dreaming sets House of Whispers apart from the others. Books of Power and The Infernal Comedy centres mostly on characters who the risks they face, with only a few exceptions. House of Whispers works on a grander scale where people will never recover from the games of gods. The stakes of finding Daniel and returning everything to what it should be are raised here and it finishes with the knowledge that somethings, once done, cannot be undone. A visually stunning addition to the Sandman Universe, most of House of Whispers takes place within the Dreaming during the time of Judge Gallows and features Cain and Abel as secondary characters. While there is no suggestion as to the order to read the three, I feel this one should be read straight after The Dreaming.