BLACK LIGHT by Elizabeth Hand


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In Hand’s new fantasy, as in Waking the Moon (1995), two opposing groups of magicians, the Benandanti and the Malandanti, struggle to control human destiny. Kamensic is a spooky town, populated mostly by celebrities. High-school senior Charlotte “Lit” Moylan always felt like an outsider, but recently she’s experienced unsettling presentiments and mystical visions. Sure enough, notorious movie director Axel Kern, Lit’s godfather, has returned to his ancient, decaying mansion, Bolerium, to throw a Halloween party that everyone is commanded to attend. But at the entrance to Bolerium, Lit touches a phallic carving and is spellbound by horribly real-seeming visions involving hunting and bloody pagan rites. At the party, Professor Balthazar Warnick (we already know he’s an immortal Benandante) claims she’s the reincarnation of his lover, a Malandante whom he was forced to betray. As the party grows weirder yet—the film crews, drink, drugs, black lights, hallucinatory or perhaps occult occurrences, all bound up with ancient Dionysian rites—Lit learns that the entire town is dedicated to the Malandante. Her task is to sacrifice Axel, the avatar of Dionysos, so that the god may live again. Instead, she learns how to open the portals the magicians use to move instantly from place to place, and visits Warnick’s remote Orphic Lodge. He pleads with Lit to stay but she refuses and returns to Bolerium to confront her destiny. Vivid, evocative, and well informed if heavily symbolic, with accurately limned teenaged characters; the problem’s not so much a slender plot that doesn’t cohere as the failure of the characters to adopt any recognizably purposeful course of action.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-105266-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1999


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