EQUINOX by David Towsey
Head of Zeus h/b £18.99
Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson
Christophor Morden is a Special Inspector for the King of Reikova who is summoned one night in 1721 to attend to a bizarre circumstance at St Leonars prison involving a prisoner transferred from the southern town of Drekenford. The prisoner, who is accused of stealing from his employer, has gone mute and blind, having grown teeth in his eye sockets. It is a clear case of witchcraft, but Christophor, an experienced witch-finder, doesn’t want to investigate until he receives a formal instruction from his Chief authorised by the King himself.
There are two tales in this novel. The first is the plot which weaves around as all good tales of witchcraft do; the second, however, is about how a society works where each individual has two identities, one being their day-time personality and the other their night-time personality. Christophor is a cold, cunning investigator of wickedness who is always weighing the available evidence and calculating possibilities at night, whilst during the day, the same body is inhabited by Alexsander, a rather relaxed musician, fond of female company, who makes his living in pubs and market-places as needs require. Two contrasting souls sharing the same body with any imbalances largely resolved by consuming the leaves of the native etienne plant.
From the start, it becomes apparent that this tale has a very clear and distinctive narrative style. This reviewer found it familiar and started wondering why Robert Harris had changed his name. Further enquiry, however, demonstrated that David Towsey is another individual from another town who possesses the same quality story-telling skills as the erstwhile Harris. Neither writer had any need to revert to eating etienne leaves.
Christophor’s work has left him an anxious, troubled soul. He has visions of destruction caused by The Four Horsemen of familiar legend, fed largely by a sense of inadequacy in dealing with the forces arrayed against the Kingdom he inhabits. He senses that the reality of everyday life is conditional on the simple routines of human behaviour but fears that simple equilibrium could be easily upset.
Before leaving for Drekenford, Christophor takes the time to consult the library at the Cathedral and The Ritual of Berith, which includes the phrase `the unfaithful lose sight of themselves’. This proves to be valuable insurance.
He and his day-brother travel south to Drekeneford with a detachment of the Kings Dragoon Guards being sent to Fort Seeben, which overlooks the town. The soldiers are plagued by an infection called the pox, which thins their number.
Both personalities find Drekenford an agreeable place. Alexsander strikes up an agreeable friendship with a painter and the day-sister of the Mayor’s wife. It becomes apparent at this stage that there are a few holes in the concept of two identities inhabiting the same body at different hours, but this is all a whimsy, a fairy-tale designed to amuse and challenge.
Before long, Christophor identifies the seat of the witching in the household of the Mayor. This is where the conflict starts, made all the more complicated by who or what lies at the seat of the destructive magic. The entire Kingdom of Reikova has a complicated relationship with neighbouring people described only as the southern tribes. A tribesman of these people also lives in the Mayor’s household.
At this point, the narrative switches, placing Alexsander as the narrator. It is obvious that this has to be done to do the tale full justice. The climax is spectacular as Christophor and Alexsander confront the threat to Drekenford and Reikova on All Hallows Eve.
This entire complex tale is very well narrated. The reader gets to inhabit both Christophor and Alexsander, each with their own voice. Fantasy fiction, by nature, needs to provide the reader with images that last. This one could become a classic.