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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Season of the Witch" by Natasha Mostert

Buy “Season of the WitchHERE, which is available now in the UK and will be released April 19, 2007 for the U.S.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, it’s easy to do that with “Season of the Witch”, the fourth novel by writer Natasha Mostert. Just looking at the mysteriously sensual cover (U.S. version), the title of the book and blurbs that describe “Season of the Witch” as “erotic” and “gothic”, you might think of the novel as some sort of supernatural romance. Then, if you open the book to read the inside synopsis you’ll see comparisons to “The Matrix”, “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Historian”, all of which I feel are a little bit misleading. So, let me help you in dispelling any misconceptions that you might have about “Season of the Witch.”

First and foremost, “Season of the Witch” is a modern-day suspense thriller that utilizes elements of romance, murder mystery and supernatural concepts that are grounded in reality. At the center of this tale is protagonist Gabriel Blackstone, a suave, confident, James Bond-like thief that steals information. As a main character, I’ll admit that Gabriel at first seemed like your typical hero haunted by familiar demons and regrets. However, Ms. Mostert does a great job of bringing Gabriel to life and evoking the various emotions that he’s feeling, so as the story progresses, so does he, evolving from the charmingly arrogant thief that he’s introduced as to a man fallen deeply in love, to one torn between his heart & mind, to despair, resigned determination and so forth. Providing an additional layer to his persona is Gabriel’s unique ability of remote viewing, a real-life theory that we’ve seen explored in film (Suspect Zero), TV, videogames and other literature.

Since “Season of the Witch” moves along at a fast clip, it’s not long before Gabriel’s ex-lover comes into the picture and convinces Gabriel to covertly investigate the disappearance of Frankie’s husband’s son Robert. Gabriel’s subject: the Monk sisters Morrighan & Minnaloushe. This is where the story takes on some romantic elements as the trio embarks on a courtship of sorts, but in no way are we dealing with cheesy Harlequin clichés or explicit sex. Instead, the courting scenes between the three are some of the most compelling moments in the book, mainly because the characters of Morrighan & Minnaloushe Monk are such fascinating creations. Representing the antagonists of the book – at least one of them – the Monk sisters are white witches, a far cry from broomsticks, black cauldrons and warts as their ‘magic’ deals with alchemy, information & enlightenment. Each possessing their own unique personality, and elegantly written by Ms. Mostert, it’s not long before the alluring sisters ensnare Gabriel in their grasp. Inevitably, love blossoms and mystery, murder and mysticism unfold.

Plot-wise, I felt that “Season of the Witch” was well done for the most part, particularly the first two-thirds of the book with the character introductions, the interactions between Gabriel, Morrighan & Minnaloushe, and the mysteries that we’re drawn into. From there, the story seems to lose its momentum as secrets are revealed without any major surprise, explanations are too easily provided and the climax felt a bit underwhelming. Plus, the concept of the Art of Memory that was introduced in the book and one of the more interesting aspects in the “Season of the Witch” was, I felt, underutilized. As far as possessing elements of “The Matrix”, “Interview with the Vampire” and “The Historian”, I can kind of see that if you look really closely. For instance the Art of Memory shares some resemblance to the Matrix in the movies, and the sympathetic view of witches and seductive sensuality of the book is akin to Anne Rice’s vampire novels, but lacks their depth & complexity. Also, don’t expect any kind of high-flying guns/martial arts action, epic plots or detailed historical background info.

My advice with “Season of the Witch” is to forget the comparisons, avoid any preconceptions and try to go into this book with an open mind and just enjoy “Season of the Witch” for what it is – an intriguing amalgam of ideas and genres (suspense, thriller, romance, supernatural) that shines a whole new light on witches, remote viewing and the Art of Memory, all wrapped up in an entertaining and stylishly written tale of love, loss and transcendence…


Katie M. said...

I just finished reading this one as well. I have to agree with you about the blurbs and things on the cover and the comparisons. I think they are misleading. But I thought the book was wonderful. I loved it.

Robert said...

Thanks for checking out the review. I'm glad you liked the book and hope you'll keep coming back...

Carl V. said...

Interesting, having finished the book and written my review last night, I find that we had the exact same experience with the cover blurbs vs. the content of the book. The blurbs did not excite me. If anything, I had the opposite reaction, but I really enjoyed the story and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good thriller.

Robert said...

Carl, thanks for sharing your thoughts. The cover blurbs are definitely misleading, but it doesn't take away from how good the book is. Btw, I was really impressed with your blog. I'll have to link it on Fantasy Book Critic. Also, I grew up about 45 minutes from KC in a little town called Garden City, MO, and my wife and I actually lived in Overland Park before moving out here to Washington. It was a nice place to live...

John (Grasping for the Wind) said...

Thanks for this, just got a copy from Penguin and was afraid it was going to be a book all about sex, especially with the "erotic" nomer, something I usually avoid religiously. Seems like I might be able to enjoy this book.

Anya said...

watch a fan trailer in you tube made for season of the witch!its great!

Kristine said...

The author is a skilful writer who successfully develops her characters through descriptive scenes. The progression of relationships is predictable, but enjoyable. The underlying framework of alchemy and memory distinguish this novel and make it interesting reading. After taking so much time to develop the characters and the plot, the author arrived at the climax too quickly and without providing much suspense. I thought that the summation of Gabriel's life as revealed in a conversation with a stranger in just a couple of pages at the end was ineffective. I highly recommend the book.

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