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Thursday, April 2, 2009

“Keeper of Light and Dust” by Natasha Mostert (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Natasha Mostert Website
Order “Keeper of Light and Dust
Read An Excerpt
Read Reviews HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Natasha Mostert was born in South Africa. Educated in Cape Town and New York, she holds graduate degrees in Lexicography and Applied Linguistics, and has subsequently worked as an academic and journalist. She is the author of four previous novels including “Season of the Witch” (Reviewed HERE).

PLOT SUMMARY: Mia Lockhart is no ordinary woman. Her mother was a Keeper, as was her grandmother—women who were warriors, healers, and protectors. Mia secretly practices her craft among the boxers and martial artists of South London. But after a series of disturbing dreams, Mia is crushed when one of her boxer friends mysteriously dies after a fight. Mia’s gift of protection is being overpowered . . . but by what?

As Mia struggles to find the cause of the mysterious death, and the message hidden inside her dreams, she meets Adrian Ashton, a brilliant scientist and skilled martial artist. Mia finds herself drawn to his dark genius. But what she doesn’t know is that Ashton has a secret identity—one that could threaten the life of her childhood friend Nick Duffy. Forced to choose between the two men, Mia finds herself caught in a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness and the biggest prize…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 301 pages divided over fifty-nine chapters and a Prologue/Epilogue. Also includes notes on the topics researched for the book and
CPAU’s Fighting For Peace. Narration is in the third person mostly via Nick Duffy, Mia Lockhart Cortez, and Adrian Ashton, and also includes short excerpts from The Book of Light & Dust. “Keeper of Light and Dust” is self-contained.

April 2, 2009 marks the North American Hardcover publication of “Keeper of Light and Dust” via
Dutton. The UK Trade Paperback version (see below) will be published April 9, 2009 (Bantam UK) under the title “The Keeper”.

ANALYSIS: In “Season of the WitchNatasha Mostert surprised me with a contemporary thriller that engagingly mixed romance and mystery with science, history and the supernatural. In her new book “Keeper of Light and Dust”, the author offers more of the same, but where “Season of the Witch” explored remote viewing, the Art of Memory and witches, “Keeper of Light and Dust” tackles martial arts, out-of-body experiences (OBE) and chronobiology…

Now for me, I was immediately intrigued by the thought of martial arts in a suspense thriller, but let me just warn you that “Keeper of Light and Dust” is no Enter the Dragon, Kickboxer or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In fact, apart from a couple of ‘fights’ toward the end, the book hardly features any fisticuffs at all. Instead, “Keeper of Light and Dust” offers a more philosophical viewpoint of martial arts—not unlike David Mamet’s film “
Redbelt”—exploring the practice in an age of Internet and social networking as well as different types of disciplines (grapple-and-grunts, vogues) and values:

Do (“the way”) — that fusion of the physical and the spiritual that will lead the martial artist to enlightenment.
Haragei — the ability to gauge your opponent’s chi (his inner vital energy).
Kobudera — the masking of true intent.
Aiki — the turning of an opponent’s body against his mind, borrowing his force instead of spending one’s own.

With martial arts, the author also explores chi and its relationship to acupuncture, meridian lines, quantum physics, the Zero Point Field, and the lost art of Dim Mak. “Keeper of Light and Dust” features other intriguing ideas & topics as well including Keepers who heal and protect ‘warriors’ through out-of-body experiences and Reiki meditation; chronobiology, body art and immortality, but Natasha’s unconventional look at martial arts is by far the book’s most interesting characteristic.

The writing is once again very strong, distinguished by elegant prose which at times borders on poetic, convincing characters, dynamic pacing and Natasha’s vivid imagination. But the author’s storytelling comes up short with a mystery that lacks suspense and a romance that surprisingly lacked passion, especially compared to “Season of the Witch”. Plus, the author once again underutilizes the many wonderful ideas in her book—Mia’s training as a Keeper, their history, how Ashton acquired his abilities, and much more could have been explored in greater depth—an issue that I had with “Season of the Witch”.

CONCLUSION: Compared to “Season of the Witch”, I felt “Keeper of Light and Dust” was less enjoyable, but in spite of a lackluster plot and ideas whose potential were unfulfilled, I would highly recommend Natasha Mostert’s new novel, if only for its uniqueness and creativity…


ANovelMenagerie said...

I also read and reviewed this book. I also enjoyed Season a bit more than this one.

Joanne King said...

I have to take issue with your comment that "once again" the author underutilizes the many wonderful ideas in her book—Mia’s training as a Keeper, their history, how Ashton acquired his abilities, and much more could have been explored in greater depth—an issue that I had with “Season of the Witch”. I realize you are a fantasy critic but Mostert writes page turner thrillers and to expect her to weigh down her narrative with expositions a la Frank Herbert's Dune and the Bene Gesserit would be unacceptable.

I am a huge Natasha Mostert fan and have been ever since I read her first book The Midnight Side. I was living in Amsterdam at the time and was actually forced to read the book in translation but I immediately knew this writer was special. I actually have her on Google alert because I'm interested in following her career. She is embraced by so many communities -- crime, SF, romance, horror -- and the reviewers always castigate her for breaking the "rules" of their genre. Romance readers love her but still rap her over the fingers because her endings aren't always happy and her writing too dark. SF reviewers like you want her to go into obscure, esoteric detail. Crime reviewers tell her she adds too much esoteric detail and horror reviewers demand more "gore". Why not forget about the rules and just say wow. What an amazing talent.

"A romance that lacked passion"??? I thought her fight scenes with Ashton fairly burned up the pages with unresolved sexual tension. But hey, that's just me. I'm a girl. Obviously guys need more.

Kelly Forte said...

It is sexy!! (I'm a guy)
"lackluster plot?" Fantastic plot. Compleatly original. Enough chatter. BUY this book!!!

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