An engaging, suspenseful occult novel set in historical and contemporary Prague.
In this sequel to Come Hell or High Water: Wellspring (2012), a group of professors specializing in folklore and magic attempts to prevent George, a powerful priest, and Elizabeth, an Irish vampire, from unleashing an evil that threatens to destroy all of Prague. Both George and Elizabeth were called to Prague by Magdalena, who summoned them to help fulfill the dying wishes of Fen’ka, a woman burned alive as a witch in the 14th century. Unbeknownst to Magdalena, Fen’ka seeks the return of Svetovit, a pagan god who will bring destruction to the modern world. Both sides scramble to find four magical items that protect Prague from evil: a sword, a staff, a pentacle and a chalice. The first half of the novel is a mystery in which the professors try to identify the magical items, while the second half becomes a suspenseful race as both sides try to obtain the items. The plot in this volume is more exciting than Wellspring and also more erotic, especially the scenes showing Elizabeth seducing men and then feeding on their blood. Chapters alternate between the main plot and loosely connected stories of the occult from medieval Prague that illustrate the effects of Fen’ka’s curse. Those historical episodes, which aren’t linked to the modern chapters, sometimes seem like parts of a different novel; however, they include evocative scenes featuring Czech slang and medieval social and religious practices, with characters, particularly women, using the occult to rebel against the rigid social bonds of the time, marriage especially. Carrying over from Wellspring, dialogue is still somewhat awkward, although it’s more naturalistic here. While the previous volume felt slow to develop, the sense of danger in this outing is palpable from the start, and the intensity, at least in the modern chapters, rarely lets up. Also included are several Czech legends, such as the story of Rabbi Judah ben Loew creating the Golem, which should appeal to readers with an interest in folklore.
A stark division of narratives, but each is absorbing, especially for history fans.