Near Truro, where Britain meets the legends of the mythic sea, Gavin Stokes awaits his Auntie Gwen at an estate called Pendurra.
Gavin has heard a woman’s voice since childhood, a voice he refers to as Miss Grey. His mother thinks he’s batty. His father thinks he’s contrary. His school has suspended him. With parents away for winter vacation, Gavin is sent to Auntie Gwen. In this first of a trilogy, Treadwell links young Gavin to magus John Fiste, a student of “the unseen world” in 1537. On his way to Truro, Gavin encounters Hester Lightfoot, a scholar at Oxford forced to resign because she too hears a voice. Gavin’s aunt isn’t on hand to meet the train, and so Hester drops him off at Gwen’s lodge on the grounds of Pendurra’s ancient manor house. There, Gavin encounters its owner, Tristram Uren, and his fey and feckless 13-year-old daughter Marina. Setting and atmosphere are perfect for a gothic-tinged, magic-driven story: a forbidding opening; strange characters; bizarre noises and shadowy visions; and a narrative that slowly but inexorably circles toward seemingly inevitable doom. Shifting from Gavin’s current day to Fiste’s era, the story reveals the great magus is Johannes Faust, whose skill with the black arts allowed him to travel in time to meet Helen of Troy and Cassandra. That there is a link between Fiste/Faust and Gavin becomes apparent when Gavin encounters a mysterious woman near Hester’s village who refers to him as Gawain. She asks Gavin to take her burden, that being “There will be fire and blood…The world will find it a bitter weight.” The book thereafter romps toward a surrealistic and fantastical conclusion filled with dryads and pukas, mermaids and a giant talking crow, trees that come alive, malevolent angels and Gavin's heroic overcoming. Ripe with literary language and classical references, Treadwell’s novel shape-shifts between bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining.
A book that should appeal to grown-up Potter-philes.