In Peers’ debut fantasy novel, a young woman who may be the descendant of mythic priestesses heads north in search of her destiny.
While visiting England, Samuel Alexander finds a ring he believes to be sacred. Years later, Samuel dies, bestowing upon Sophie, his 8-year-old granddaughter, the ring and a journal he kept to detail the ring’s connection to Ogham, the mystical Tree Alphabet. After young Sophie is visited—in what seems to be a dream—by Nimue, a High Priestess of Avalon, a cataclysmic event causes an older Sophie to take the ring and Samuel’s journal on a trek, ultimately seeking help from Jack, an old friend of her mother’s and a former psychiatrist who lost his license due to his unorthodox methods. It’s here that Sophie acts as a vessel, transforming into nine priestesses trapped in the forest, each of whom await the fulfillment of a prophecy—a union to reveal the wisdom of the trees. The priestesses often speak in metaphors and rarely provide clear answers, as in the response to Jack when he asks for a name: “I have many names, and I have no name.” The intricate plot takes some getting used to, but it rewards readers with dramatic, expressive prose. The author doesn’t waste a single character; they each play their part, even Sophie’s mother, Eleni. Lilli, Jack’s “spirit sister” (she claims to have adopted him a year before), is the book’s unparalleled character. She’s a shape-shifter—spending a good deal of the novel as Coyote—and her insight into the mythical elements is greater than anyone else’s. Sophie’s constant transformations and a seemingly ever-present dark force, which is eventually personified, keep the story at an elevated unease. Fortunately, Peers relieves some of the pressure with appropriate bits of subtle humor: a young Sophie draws symbols on her skin; and Lilli, Eleni and Sophie separately visit a hospitalized Jack, much to the receptionist’s chagrin.
A story sometimes difficult to digest, but readers will want to sink their teeth into this enchanted tale.