The Book of Shadows
James Reese [main] [about] [features] [reviews] [interviews] [link] [search]
Edition reviewed: HarperTorch (paperback) /$7.99 / 640p
I couldn't make my mind up about The Book of Shadows. It
was sort of compelling in it's own campy way. I never lost the feeling
it was a satire and that Reese was pulling our nether limb. Maybe I'm
wrong. You tell me: It's 1812 and Herculine, a girl raised in a
provincial French convent (where she reads the shocking Mathew Lewis's The Monk?),
discovers she's actually a hermaphrodite when s/he accidentally rapes
a girl she/he is in love with. This, of course, does not meet the
approval of anyone and she (Herculine is always referred to as she
despite her "other" gender) is imprisoned. Rescued by two ghosts (who
are somehow also a succubus and incubus) and a witch named Sebastiana,
Herculine learns she is a born witch. She learns something about
witchcraft. She leaves. She does a deed and then she's on a boat
sailing off to a sequel. Along the way there's some sex that is
sillier than it is erotic and we learn the histories of the incubus,
succubus, witch, and a demon. The stop-action-tell-the-story trick may
be true to the intended archaic style, but the 19th century style
slips as much as it sticks throughout the book.
That's about it. I
think. There's a Caleb Carr blurb on the back cover calling it a
"story that seeps into the mind like a potion." Uh, yeah. Sort of like
toxic waste seeps into the groundwater supply?
I guess, in the end, I did make up my mind, didn't I?
Another interesting note: The William Morrow Hardcover had a spooky overgrown gothic arch in a swamp cover. The paperback
was emblazoned with a Diana Gabaldon quote on the front and inserted in the gothic arch is a
picture of a blonde with naked back
revealed (reminiscent of Kushiel's Chosen, a highly imitated cover). In the background (the figure's view) there appears to be
a field with haystacks. Go figure.
-- Appeared in a slightly altered form in Cemetery Dance #44
Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights