A debut novel about a group of mysterious, night-dwelling creatures and their travels through history.
“Although there is of course no acknowledgment of their existence in our world, I can most emphatically attest to their presence.” So begins this story of the dark creatures known as Night-Travelers—or so they’re called by W. Arthur Richardson, a 1930s writer. He finds himself transfixed by a man named Jean Sylvan, who has good manners, stays in excellent hotels, and isn’t fond of the daytime. Richardson sees him take a young, timid coat-check girl into his company one night, and when he sees her again the next evening, transformed into a woman of the world, he knows something’s up, but he’s not sure exactly what. The girl mysteriously disappears shortly afterward, which, in that era, might have been chalked up as a replaceable loss of the lower orders—were it not for her concerned husband, Jack, who teams up with Richardson in his investigation. So begins a saga that eventually stretches all the way back to 1351 Scandinavia. It also extends forward to 1970s Vermont, where a graduate student named Fran picks up an unassuming hitchhiker wearing a dirty, calico skirt. When strange memories start flooding Fran’s mind, she’s swept up in a whirlwind of activity that eventually involves an aged, though still fiery, Jack. This ambitious novel has a complex scenario and an epic scale. Although the astute reader will surmise that Night-Travelers (or “Nåttfolk,” as they’re also called) are essentially vampires, the book manages to avoid many clichés of the horror genre. The tale is filled with ideas about memory and history, and fantastic and suspenseful scenes, as when a mysterious woman named Pamela Baldwin seeks shelter (“The Sun would be coming soon, and seized with panic, Pamela found herself on the porch of Jack’s farmhouse”). That said, the book can be muddled at times, due to its complexity and shifting cast of characters, and some portions prove difficult to follow. Some readers may get lost in shuffles of time, space and memory, as author Saknusseneouw attempts to distance the Nåttfolk from their more familiar literary cousins.
An intriguing, if occasionally obtuse, mixture of the historical and the supernatural.