A Multitude of Dreams by Mara Rutherford
Published on November 17, 2023
Reviewed by Samantha Calderone
A Multitude of Dreams is a reimagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. In Rutherford’s retelling, a mad king closes gates to his castle, trapping nobles and servants inside, in the hopes to prevent a bloody plague from breaching its halls.
Seraphina has spent the last four years hiding her Jewish background and identity while pretending to be Princess Imogen, the youngest daughter of the mad king. Seraphina was taken from her family at the beginning of the plague and brought to the castle by Imogen’s real sisters in an attempt to hide the truth from their fragile father. Living in the castle means taking part in an elaborate ruse, and pretending the plague simply does not exist in the presence of the King. However, after years of hiding who she is, Seraphina begins to question the cost of the secrets she is keeping and whether those hiding in the castle would be better off venturing outside.
With the end of the plague having finally arrived, Nico has found the new world to be changed and a much darker reality when compared to the life he lived before. After being taken in by the generous Lord Crane, Nico feels as though he must repay a debt for his survival. Sent to the castle to search for other survivors, Nico begins to uncover some dark truths about the world he now lives in, and finds himself questioning the safety of those he cares for. When Nico and Seraphina meet, their delicate facades begin to crack, and they must learn to rely on each other if they want to survive.
Told in alternate points of view, Rutherford presents a world from two sides, while using Seraphina’s experiences to draw parallels to historical antisemitism. Throughout the novel, Seraphina grapples with her own identity and the loss of her culture and people in a way that feels real. The Jewish representation shown through Seraphina’s character adds an extra layer of meaning to the story that leaves a lasting impact. Seraphina’s character is easily understood, and reader’s will root for her to overcome the hardships she faces and fight for her freedom.
Rutherford does a good job of creating a realistic world in the aftermath of a plague, and places emphasis on character growth. Secondary characters are given enough backstory to feel fully fleshed out and allow readers to understand their motivations.
Overall, an enjoyable gothic read.