This thriller sees a businessman with a dark past battle a magician determined to topple Haiti's spiritual legacy.
Charles Redmond manages an import/export business in Washington, D.C. Joseph de Alverado, one of his clients, is an unsettling eccentric. He orders what seem like "religious temple furnishings" and can open a sealed shipping crate barehanded. When Charles dreams of Joseph as a demon, he visits his psychiatrist. Dr. Sanantha Mauwad, who lived in Haiti as a child, recognizes on Charles' leather wallet the symbol for Papa Legba, the Voodou Jesus figure. She writes an antidepressant prescription and asks if Charles has been to the Caribbean. He says no. Meanwhile, in a Haitian temple, Joseph reports to Silas Alverado, his "master." Silas may look like a mere elderly man, but he's Chosen—he "died one hundred generations ago" as Royarna, the High Priest of Amun. The magician plans to "re-enshrine His Dark Majesty" Osiris and convert Haitian Voodou followers into worshippers of the faded Egyptian deity. Silas' demonic work takes him to the British Museum in London and a tomb near the site of ancient Thebes, among other locations, where corpses pile up in his wake. Charles, who lied about having been to the Caribbean, implores the Voodou love goddess Erzulie to protect him from Joseph. Hartlove (Daughter Cell, 2013, etc.) fashions a riveting blend of history, religion, and horror in this briskly paced series opener. He carries readers from grounded moments to dreamlike fantasy with steely ease, as in the line "A thousand birds and insects all noisily took flight as the ground buckled, the trees swayed, and the terrain undulated as the Serpent of Creation slid through the jungle floor." The magical Silas performs some truly grisly acts, including possessing a teenage girl and using her to seduce and then murder an Egyptian guard. The author balances his ferocious imagination with historical passion, giving Charles a tragic, though captivating, backstory as a Haitian death squad member. Sanantha remains the heart of the tale, offering Charles human support as Silas challenges the devil in a potentially world-rending finale.
A masterful historical fantasy that informs as well as enthralls.