A fantasy tale about the political squabbles of a group of witches.
Travis belongs to a long line of esteemed witches in an ancient coven in Bucharest, Romania. The coven has kept itself secret for centuries, relying on ritual killings, disguised as accidents, to sustain itself. Travis’ parents, Monica and Victor, are interested in a more advanced magic that feeds off mortal fear and the reanimation of dead people, which they believe would relieve the coven of the need to kill; they begin to experiment with it even though the council of witches forbids it. As a result, the council kills Monica and Victor, leaving Travis an orphan. Hard-line council members, dedicated to the old ways, see him as a threat and attempt to kill him, too, but he escapes and meets up with fellow orphan and excommunicated witch Sorinah Patrascu in Bratislava. Under her tutelage, Travis hones his skills. Over a century later, he moves to the sleepy American town of Sussex, Vermont, to put his parents’ magic to the test. Specifically, he plans to wreak havoc on the town in order to draw enough power to seek revenge against the witch council. His plan becomes complicated when he becomes romantically involved with Paula, his mortal neighbor, and gets to know her children and their friends. Meanwhile, a scheming council member has learned of Travis’ plans and will do anything to stop him. Gabriel, over the course of his debut novel, offers a story that’s truly action-packed. However, its frequent time-jumps, which have a cinematic feel, can be disorienting. Within the first 20 pages of the novel, for example, readers are taken from Travis’ 15th birthday to his parents’ young adulthood in the 1870s to Travis’ birth and then to his 12th birthday. That said, the author still manages to set up a fast-paced, complex tale of good and evil featuring a protagonist who has morally unconventional motivations. The story’s conclusion, though, is a bit too rushed to be fully satisfying—particularly after all the heady groundwork that precedes it.
An ambitious and moody, if occasionally puzzling, supernatural thriller.