A decade later, Lustbader (The Testament, 2006, etc.) reopens his study of good and evil, secret cults, and God and Lucifer’s elemental struggle for world dominion.
More underground guerrilla war than DaVinci Code conspiracy, Lustbader's latest has two premises: King Solomon’s alchemists employed Satan’s Book of Deathly Things to create golden treasures, which they thereafter infused with "a fifth element...aether...the Quintessence...the pure energy of the universe"; more critically, Lucifer, believing "God had stepped aside...ashamed of the transgressive failures of his greatest creation," intends to rule the world. Lucifer has set loose the Fallen as advance troops. Also involved are the Knights of Saint Clement of the Holy Land, whose motives and goals are nefarious, and the Gnostic Observatines, a long-ago Franciscan splinter group more interested in serving truth than pontiff. Braverman Shaw and his sister, Emma, lead the Observatines. They’re presently working from Istanbul, where Braverman will meet with Dilara, a local Observatine, who informs him he must allow her daughter, beautiful Ayla, a London barrister, to guide him into Lebanon’s Tannourine mountains. It’s there they’ll find a cave holding secrets about the Testament of Lucifer and Lucifer’s Book of Deathly Things. Who’s serving whom becomes problematic, but the world’s fate has been thrust upon Braverman, Emma, and Ayla; the Fallen resist. Character development? Not much, but there’s much minutiae about things real and imagined, like the sign of the Unholy Trinity. The narrative is complex, with everything from alchemists to a cure for blindness to Saint Bella dell’Arca, an Italian convent ruled by the Fallen where rituals are sexual.
Intelligent, well-researched, and unsettling, this tale often references Yeats’ "The Second Coming" but doesn’t reach that poem’s level of disquietude.