Spiritus – review (magical fiction)

Imagine someone had taken D.H. Lawrence’s poem The Ship of Death, fed it some psychedelic drugs, and then introduced it to the Western Mystery Tradition and turned it into a story. The end result could be Spiritus by Kala Trobe, a phantasmagorical journey through hadean and empyrean realms.
I really enjoyed this novel, which combines a rich narrative style with a plot which twists and turns like an eel on heat. There are layers of symbolism woven into the text, with the result that any reader will enjoy it, but the greater the occult knowledge of the reader, the more they will spot in subtleties of description and deed. The author’s own wealth of experience really shines through in this, both as an accomplished writer and as someone with a thorough grounding in the traditions of magic and myth.
If you haven’t encountered Kala Trobe’s fiction before, this book should be on your reading list – it is a dazzling combination of mythic themes combined in personal journeys which cross, skew and diverge for the characters of the book. I have deliberately shied away from describing the plot because I feel that you need to approach this book without any preconceptions. Read, enjoy, digest and contemplate!

Stargazer – review (magical fiction)

If you like vampire novels which actually question preconceptions and push the boundaries rather than simply regurgitate the standard formula, then you will love Stargazer. As I read through the story, it brought a number of other works to mind, but in a comparative manner as I noticed similarities in richness of language or challenging the genre. Thus on one level Stargazer made me think of Colin Wilson’s Space Vampires and A.E. Van Vogt’s Supermind as all being works which bring innovation and then twist it on its head in places to spin the plot into dark and unexpected complexities. On another level Connor has captured the atmospheric detail found in classic vampire masterpieces like Freda Warrington’s Taste of Blood Wine series, and the hero-antihero angst of the lead characters found in Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series.

However, to the details of the book itself – it is a book which moves at a good speed throughout, with no lapses in pace or excitement, and yet still manages to reach a breakneck climax. Miguel Connor has created a new vampire antihero in Byron who goes beyond the ‘vampire with a soul’ characters found in contemporary television series. Instead Byron is the best of antiheroes – with a huge capacity for selfless action and a dark past which lurks like an iceberg through the book, slowly surfacing until his collision with the powers that be in the climax.

The idea of a post-apocalyptic world created by vampires, now calling themselves stargazers, is indicative of the intelligent use of the genre the author has demonstrated, with layers of symbolism throughout the work awaiting discovery by those interested in spirituality and Gnostic symbolism. This is definitely a must-read book which stands out as one of the best vampire novels I have yet read, and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, Heretic.

An Ogham Wood – review (magical fiction)

I love good magical fiction, though there are not very many contemporary writers who produce it. Authors such as Charles deLint, Neil Gaiman, Terri Windling and Patricia Geary stand out from the crowd through their innovative but believable storytelling. And now another name joins them – Cliff Seruntine. Cliff’s first novel, An Ogham Wood (also available on Amazon Kindle) , is a delightful read which builds up slowly, gathering momentum to an epic climax, like a storm in all its glory – wind, rain, thunder and lightning, but for the inner senses of the mind.

The level of detail and loving craft found in the fairy folk in this story is an absolute joy, bringing Celtic folklore to life in a vivid picture of country life largely lost in the modern western world. Although the story is complete in itself, there are enough tales of past glories and tragedies feeding into the weave of the story to allow for any number of sequels and prequels. The fabulous cover by Marc Potts draws the eye and hints at the other realms to be explored within.

The author’s own experience and expertise show through in the flawed hero, Sweyn deSauld, both of sailing and as a successful psychologist. Another reviewer astutely pointed out that this is a story told by a man from a man’s perspective, a definite bonus in this genre where the hero’s perspective is often neglected or disregarded. A line from a song by Canadian band Martha and the Muffins comes to mind with this story – “I think of your past like broken glass, the people who are pieces I still meet”. For Sweyn to step back from the brink to sanity, he has to find and bring together the right broken pieces, and his journey to do so is in the style of epics from days gone by.

For me, An Ogham Wood is the most enjoyable fantasy read I have had for a long time, and in a sign of its quality, leaves me wanting to read the following volumes the author has promised.