The Warrior * The Watcher * The Sage * The Genius * The Wizard
The Nobleman * The Mother * The Twins * The Lover * Soul
Bones * The Phoenix * The Oracle * The Fortune * The King
The Monster * The Wolf * The Crab * The Juggernaut * The God
Occult thriller novel, written by Edgar Cantero in 2014.
This is an epistolary novel, told through a collection of documents -- letters, video and audio transcripts, notebook conversations -- as a young European referred to only as A. learns that a cousin he's never heard of has died and left him a spooky mansion in Point Bless, Virginia. When he moves to America to take over the house, he brings his close friend Niamh, a mute punk girl from Ireland, and they both buy a collie named Help for a little more companionship in the mansion. And they start doing research about the weird history of eerie old Axton House.
They read strange letters, they research a host of secret codes, they uncover evidence of a secret society that meets at the house every year for unknown purposes, and they search for Axton House's mysteriously vanished butler. And they discover so many unusual, cryptic facts about the mansion.
The previous owner of the house -- Ambrose Wells, A.’s mysterious cousin -- committed suicide by throwing himself out a window -- and at the very same age and from the very same window as his own father had committed suicide. Wells maintained secret, coded correspondence with a number of unknown people, and A. soon becomes obsessed with decoding the secrets of Wells’ secret society, and he begins having a number of vivid, bizarre, frightening dreams. At the same time, it becomes clear that Axton House is haunted, which is just one more thing messing with A.’s rapidly fraying sanity.
It finally gets to be too much, and A. prepares to throw himself from the fateful window -- but the pair eventually discover the cause of A.'s dreams: a large glass orb which, when touched, causes visions of a group of mysterious persons -- some mundane, some terrifying, some exhibiting amazing abilities, and some very clearly not really human. Will A. and Niamh ever unravel the mysteries of Axton House? What is the bizarre secret behind the crystal orbs? And what horrors await them when the Society joins together at the Winter Solstice?
This one drew me in because I've got a serious weakness for turn-of-the-century ghost stories, and the descriptions of the story had all the hallmarks of a great haunted house tale. And though it does start out looking like an old-school ghost story, it soon turns into a mystery -- with a strong emphasis on obscure codes and cryptography -- and finally morphs into an occult action adventure thriller. And I don't think of this as a weakness of the book -- the genre-jumping helps keep it readable, even when a few pages are devoted to exposition and even academic discussions of old codes.
It's a wonderfully readable book -- the chapters mostly consists of short snippets from notebooks, video logs, diaries, and suchlike, which means you shoot through the narrative much faster than the pagecount would have you expecting. And it's hard to quit reading when you know every few pages could reveal some new mystery or unveil something you never expected.
There’s a lot to be said for how great the characters are -- A. makes an excellent protagonist, and the all-too-brief visits with Ambrose Wells’ butler and with the Society members are wonderful. Even Help, the dog, is a joy in every scene he’s in.
But the best character, the one that guarantees that this book gets my recommendation, is Niamh. She has more pure personality than everyone else in the novel put together. Her inability to speak doesn’t keep us from learning more about her, thanks to her ever-present notebooks, as well as A.’s descriptions of her. She’s got twice A.’s brains, ten times his charm, and 100 times his courage. And she has her own facial expression named after her -- the nive. She’s a hilarious badass wrapped up in a perky punk package, and she’s one of my favorite fictional characters ever.
If you get this book, try to look for the version with the amazing cover by Michael J. Windsor -- it's a gorgeous black-and-white jacket featuring the mansion, an intricate fence surrounding the property, and a gigantic eye over everything. True, it won't make any difference to the text between the covers, but it's a beautiful piece of artwork to hold in your hands.
If you love supernatural mysteries, thrills, and adventure -- along with a number of excellent characters -- you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.