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Friday, October 21, 2016

Summoned by Anne M. Pillsworth (Reviewed by C. T. Phipps)

Official Author Website
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AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anne M. Pillsworth was born in Troy, New York, but is currently living just outside Providence, Rhode Island, at the head of beautiful Narragansett Bay. Anne is am a member of SFWA and HWA and a rabid Austenite. Anne is one part of the Lovecraft Re-Read Project at Tor Books' website along with Ruthanna Emrys.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895. Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests applicants reply by email.

Sean's always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology. Against his best friend Edna's ("call-me-Eddy-or-else") advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it's a clever hoax, but hoping that it won't be. The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago. To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless but useful familiar—but Sean's ceremony takes a dark turn, and he instead accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep. The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain. But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham....

Welcome to the darker side of New England in the first of a new series from Anne M. Pillsworth.

FORMAT/INFO: Summoned is an alternating persona 3rd person Young Adult urban fantasy novel set in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. The book is 320 pages and was released on June 24th, 2014 via Tor books.

ANALYSIS: H.P. Lovecraft's work has been adapted to virtually every medium possible but it's only now branching out into mainstream genres due to the fact, at least until the Nineties, he was decidedly niche. Due to being an author of nihilistic cosmic horror fiction, it is no surprise that it has taken this long to adapt him to Young Adult works. There have been a few ahead of Anne M. Pillsworth but I believed Summoned to be the best set in the Cthulhu Mythos.

If I were to describe the book, I would probably state it's a combination of Harry Potter and the Cthulhu Mythos with a side order of Scooby Doo. Sean Wyndam is a young boy who dreams of being a wizard like so many other Young Adult urban fantasy protagonists but, unfortunately for him, he doesn't live in the kind of universe where magic is purely functional. Instead, he lives in a world where it produces terrifying monsters and requires bargains for your soul with the Other Gods.

The focus of the book is on the arcane side of Lovecraft's universe, things like Nyarlathotep, Miskatonic University, and Puritan sorcerers, rather than the more tentacly creatures like Shub-Niggurath or the Great Old Ones. I think they could have included a few more Lovecraft references personally as I would have loved to have gotten Redemption Orne's opinion on Joseph Curwen for example. Still, I have to say I liked the amount of detail which the author manages to weave her idyllic vision of Arkham, Massachusetts with Lovecraft's more terrifying world.

The character of Sean Wyndham is a likable young man even if I preferred his best friend in Eddy (actually a girl named Edna). I like how Anne makes it very clear that almost all of what happens in the story is Sean's fault and that he has a hunger for power which comes with his immaturity. It's rare for the author to make it clear their hero shouldn't actually be trusted with as much power as they are but it's a nice change of pace.

Another area this book excells is that it averts the "Adults are Useless" trope. Rather than leaving everything in the hands of the teenagers, Sean's parents and the teachers at Miskatonic University get involved in the process of trying to save his life. I was especially fond of the characters Helen Arkwright and Mister Geldman the pharmacist of the bizarre. I was also intrigued by the Order of Alhazared, which promises to open up many new opportunities for storytelling in future books.

The character of Redemption Orne is probably the most intriguing of the book's creations and we really don't get any insight into whether he's good, evil, or both thanks to the mystery surrounding the character. Evidence exists for multiple interpretations and I am looking forward to having that mystery solved.

CONCLUSION: Summoned is a good Young Adult novel which I think will appeal to readers of that genre. Lovecraft fans may be put off by the fact it's decidedly PG in content but I believe there's plenty who will appreciate the lighter and softer touch.


Kathryn Troy said...

So interesting to see the many ways Lovecraft affects us. I've had him as a muse in my fantasy series-not anything directly relating to the mythos, but more about my concept of the monstrous. For more details about A Vision in Crimson, take a look at

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