Book Review: Hidden Magic

(image copied from Amazon)

Book Review: Hidden Magic (Dragon’s Gift: The Huntress 0.5)
Author: Linsey Hall
Genre: Urban Fantasy
$$$: $0 AUD for Kindle, $17.82 AUD Paperback (at time article was published 11/05/2020)
Publisher: Bonnie Doon Press, LLC
Publication 4 June 2017
ASIN: B071JM6BS9

 3 stars

 Blurb:

Cass Clereaux is a FireSoul—one of the unlucky few to inherit a piece of the dragon’s soul. It gives her a deadly, forbidden magic, but at least it helps her find treasure. The only people she can trust are her fellow FireSouls, Del and Nix. They hunt treasure to pay the bills and keep their FireSoul secret to save their lives.

When Cass is blackmailed by a criminal overlord who holds their lives in his hands, things get rough. He wants a pair of rare daggers hidden inside a deadly temple. If Cass and her friends don’t get him the daggers, they’re dead. But when they get into the temple, they realize that things are even worse than they’d imagined. What was supposed to be a normal job is decidedly…not. And surviving it might be impossible.

Hidden Magic features kick butt heroines, a hot hero, and otherworldly adventure.

I picked this book up as a freebie. I’m not sure if it was from Amazon directly, the author’s newsletter, or a BookFunnel giveaway. I get lots of free books so I can’t keep track of where I get them all. Standard Disclaimer: I’m not getting paid to review this. I enjoyed it and thought you might too.

A quick rundown of the story. Hidden Magic revolves around the lives of three “sisters”, witches with unusual dragon powers. In a society where magic is prevalent, but hidden from normal humans, even Dragon powers are rare and mistrusted. The sisters are being blackmailed by an awful employer who makes them hunt magical items in exchange for keeping their secret. Hidden Magic is like Charmed (TV show) meets Indiana Jones. There’s a lot of action and the sisters using their powers in tandem to get the job done.

The story was fast paced, a long short story, or a short novella, rather than a full novel. It was an easy read for me. I think I read it in about an hour (pre-coronavirus).

My favourite scene was probably early in the piece where the sisters are drinking in a bar in the middle of the jungle. It’s a magical establishment and the way it was described just makes me wish I could hang out there too. I also liked the ending and the way the sisters used their powers to overcome obstacles in their life. I don’t want to say too much more and ruin the story for you.

Hall is a good writer. I thought some of the sections could have been slower (it was pretty fast paced the whole way through), and some things could have been expanded on but as this is a prequel book maybe that’s something she goes into more detail in, in the series. Overall though it was still an enjoyable read. I probably wouldn’t pick it up and read it again, but it definitely passed an afternoon pleasantly. I recommend this book for readers who enjoy book about witches, shows like Charmed, and adventure stories like Indiana Jones.

Click here to go to Hidden Magic’s Amazon Page

The Ugarit Gods of The Lady of Zion

Today I wanted to have some fun and tell you about the Canaanite gods that helped inspire The Lady of Zion. I’ve gone over Asherah in quite a bit of detail in parts One and Two of Yahweh and His Asherah, so I won’t be going into depth on her today.

WARNING: I’ll try to put as few spoilers as possible in here, but there may be some Easter eggs or spoilers I can’t help. You’re warned. Also, not all these characters feature in the first couple of books, or even in the novels. Some have more prominent parts in the spin off stories I’m working on featured in The Love of A Goddess (a collection of short stories telling the history of The Lady of Zion Universe) and only minor appearances in the novels.

The major gods that feature across the series are (as the Canaanites are thought to have known them):

  • Asherah                   Queen Goddess of the Sea, Mother of the Gods
  • Baal                          Fertility and Storm God,
  • Qadeshtu                  Love Goddess (in some places, also a title of Asherah)
  • Nikkal-wa-lb          Goddess of Orchards and Fruit
  • El                              King of the Gods.
  • Kothar-wa-Khasis God of Craftsmanship  
  • Mot                           God of Death
  • Resheph                  God of Plague and Disease
  • Shapash                    Goddess of the Sun
  • Eshmun                   God of Healing
  • Horon                       An Underworld God and twin brother of Melqart
  • Melqart                    God of Tyre, the Underworld, Seasons, & twin of Melqart
  • Yahweh                     Technically a Hebrew God, God of Storms and War. Worship of Yahweh appears to have been introduced to the Canaanites.
  • Heqet                         Egyptian Fertility Goddess.
    As far as I am aware she was not worshipped by the Ancient                             Canaanites.

The Canaanites had many more gods than this, but this list not only appears to cover the main deities worshipped, but covers the main aspects of life as ancient cultures understood them. You could almost delete the Ugarit names from the list and replace them with names from any ancient cult. I took some liberties with the functions and relationships of the Canaanite gods when I used them as inspiration for my stories.

Canaanite religion had several goddesses listed as the Queen of Heaven for starters. It’s unclear whether this is indicative in belief of a celestial harem (I doubt it), or whether there was belief in celestial divorce, similar to how the Greeks believed Zues had wives before Hera. There is some scholarly belief that these goddesses were all the same entity, with various titles. In my story Asherah is the second wife of El, the second wife of Mot, and the first wife of Yahweh (over the course of time not concurrently). She produces children with El, Mot, and her lover Azazel. Whether or not she has children with Yahweh you’ll have to read the series to find out.

Baal in The Lady of Zion, is one of the husbands of Lilith. He is aligned with the Araphel (the deities of the Underworld) although he is originally of the Elohim (the deities of Heaven).

Qadeshtu, El, Kothar-wa-Khasis, Mot, Horon and Melqart all play roles similar to the classical understanding of them. Heqet takes on a role much like Hekate of Greek myth.

Nikkal-wa-lb, shortened to Nikkal, appears to be a minor goddess in antiquity but in my story she is the spurned first wife of El. Her rivalry with Asherah is a major point in The Love of A Goddess, and influences the events of The Deception.

Yahweh, is the prevailing god that survived antiquity, with the exception of Baal. Our current understanding comes through the Judeo-Christian understanding as the monotheistic “God”. In The Lady of Zion he is the antagonist of the story, not necessarily evil, but the “bad guy” from the main cast’s point of view.

Resheph becomes a major character, and his story is a major plot point) starting in the third book. While he makes appearances under another name (as do most of the mention Ugarit deities) in the first two books, it’s not until The Curse of Resheph-Mot (The Lady of Zion #3) that we explore his role in the drama.

Shapash is one of the few goddesses we know by name from the beginning of the story. While she is not under Yahweh’s amnesia spell, she is considering “missing” and her interference in Grace’s life is a major factor in the progression of Grace’s adventure. Her story is not what you’ll think it will be.

Can you figure out which characters of The Lady of Zion are which disguised gods?

Yahweh and his Asherah: Part Two

As I discussed last week what we know about Canaanite mythology on the whole is murky at best. The very least we can assume of the goddess Asherah is, “that for at least some Israelites, Yahweh had a consort named Asherah” (Penchansky, 2005, p 80), regardless of whether Yahweh and Baal have swapped roles or not. Very little is known of this goddess save that she was Queen of Heaven (no matter whether her husband was El, Baal, or Yahweh), and was at one point an important deity to the people of Cana and Israel. We know that she was often worshipped in forested groves or with the employment of “Asherahs” (wooden totem poles named for their patron goddess). From historical artefacts and religious documents we can surmise Asherah was worshipped at Sidon, Samaria, and Tyre, at least, with the biblical of book 2 Kings recounting a tale in which Queen Jezebel introducing the worship of Baal and Asherah to Israel from her native home of Phoenicia. In the bible “Asherah is mentioned in the… books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Judges, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah. (godandscience), although it appears in some places Asherah may mean the goddess, and others meaning the totem poles of the deity. Nakhai goes on to list numerous other sites in Ancient Irsael where worship of Asherah was prevalent including Judah, Bethel, and Dan.

The Asherah poles are described as “poles, or sometimes stylized trees, [which] stood as a sacred monument and tribute to the Canaanite goddess, Asherah” (Christianity.com) these Asherahs would have been seen as idols, something the bible prohibits in many places, quite possibly because worship of deities like Asherah and Baal included idolatry. Isaiah 44:9-20 discusses idolatry at length and includes references to woods such as cedar and cypress which were sacred in most middle eastern cultures. In the Epic of Gilgamesh the Lebanese Cedar Forest is the home of the gods and their Queen of Heaven, Inanna, is often considered to be Asherah’s equivalent. While not overtly referencing Asherah in this passage, Isaiah 44:9-20, one can infer from it a warning for the Israelites against worshipping her, for surely the relevance of the named woods and the description of how to fashion an idol would not have been lost on the Ancient Israelites. Interestingly, while I have predominantly come across references to these Asherahs being wooden, Nakhai writes, “Judaean pillar-based figurines were common. More than a thousand of these small, simple ceramic pieces depicting a female figure whose arms support her breasts, come from eighth-seventh century Judah” and, “Presumably, they were used to invoke the protection of the Goddess, who would provide succor and sustenance for those who beseeched her… to protect their household interests” (Nakhai, 2019, p7 both).

As I discussed briefly a couple of weeks ago, Asherah was likely to have been worshipped widely by the state (government) at the height of her prominence, and I imagine the majority of her devotees would have been women. Worship of Asherah by the women of Cana is likely to have continued long after “official” worship had ceased in favour of monotheism as we have seen in other similar cultures. Worship of Asherah by women is described in the Bible clearly in Jeremiah, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?” (King James Version, Jeremiah 44:19, biblestudytools.com) this passage indicates not only a mirroring of practises of other ancient cultures such as the Greeks, but that men too worshipped the Queen of Heaven, perhaps past the point of her popularity with the state. Further, research coming from the Arizona Centre for Judaic Studies indicates  “the goddess Asherah was worshipped alongside Yahweh; the worship of both deities was essential to some – although not to all – members of the community of Israel” (Nakhai, 2019, p3-4). Indeed Nakhai goes on to state her belief,  “the queen mother… presided over the cult of Asherah (1 Kgs 15:13), which was celebrated within the Temple… while women, working within the Temple precinct, wove garments for the cult statue” (Nakhai, 2019, p4).  

Yamashita’s dissertation indicates Asherah has a similar story as Freya. She is a goddess who comes from another land and is accepted into the pantheon of the Ugarit gods. This theological migration also makes sense when one considers the variations of names that are believed to be equivalent to Asherah. As mentioned above there is some belief that Asherah is the Inanna of Sumer, Ishtar of Babylon, Astoreth, Astarte, Athirat, and more. She has been paired with most of the major male deities of the middle east (El, Baal, Yahweh, Elkunirsa, Amurru, Anu, and Assur). Wherever she goes she is seen as a Mother Goddess, Queen of the Gods, and Lady of the Waters. It has been posited that “she is connected with the cult of the dying god, the cult of Adonis and Tammuz.” (Yamashita p10) putting her in line with goddesses such as Persephone, Isis, and Inanna, mythologically speaking, and narratives in which the goddess descends to the Underworld to resurrect her deceased lover. This is further compounded by Nakhai’s research indicating “Women shared in the task and ritual acts required to properly care for the dead… wise women, skilled in singing dirges, led laments of mourning… and taught them to their daughters.” (Nakhai, 2019, p7). Asherah has a connection to the ocean, although it is not clear why, and a connection to natural woodland spaces as indicated by her worship in groves of trees like Artemis of Greece.

In The Power of Myth, the writers suggest the murkiness of the origins of this goddess could be due to the deliberate subjugation of her worship. They write
            “there is actually a historical explanation based on the coming of the
            Hebrews into Canaan and their subjugation of the people of Canaan. The
            principal divinity of… Canaan was the Goddess and associated with the
            Goddess is the serpent… there is a historical rejection of the Mother Goddess
            implied in the story of the Garden of Eden”
            (Campbell & Moyers, 1988, p 48)
This would indicate the authors’ interpretation of history was that as the Hebrew god Yahweh established prominence over the existing faith of the Canaanite peoples, worship of the goddess was either discouraged or outright forbidden. The text of Isaiah discouraging idolatry, and other similar passages in the Bible, further lends weight to this assertion. Regardless of how the goddess was suppressed historically, we cannot deny it has happened. It has only been since 1928 that archaeologists have begun to find traces of this fascinating goddess.

My research has led me down several interesting pathways that I would like to explore further, so if these articles have been interesting to you, you can expect to hear more on the subject in the future. The Canaanite deities Yahweh and Asherah are prominent characters in The Lady of Zion, which was one of my motivations for writing these articles about Canaanite mythology. While The Lady of Zion is not a re-telling of the Canaanite myths, there is obviously a link between the two, with my tale having been influenced by a number of mythologies from the middle east.

Next week I’ll discuss the Ugarit Gods a little more, focusing on the ones that feature in The Lady of Zion series.

References:

Yahweh and his Asherah: Part One

This article has turned into a two-parter. Originally it was going to be a slightly longer post because once I got the ball rolling it was kind of hard to stop. I originally intended to only discuss the relationship between the Asherah and Yahweh of Canaanite mythology, yet I found once I began to write this article I needed to explain far more than I anticipated, using my experience researching The Lady of Zion as evidence for how I interpreted the scattering of clues about their contentious relationship. Instead I fell down a research rabbit hole and suddenly had almost eight pages of article for you. So, I’m going to split this article into two parts. Today’s post will focus on Asherah and Yahweh’s relationship, and next week will focus on what we know of Asherah herself.

One of the most useful things university taught me, was to come up with the idea I wanted to work with (i.e. story concept to write about), and then find the evidence to support it. In theory you were supposed to do your research first and then come up with the idea you wanted to work with, but most of us had our idea and then had to justify it, because in the world of academia you have to prove your interpretation of facts/evidence is legitimate. At least that was my experience of arts-based research. I wanted to write an Angel Lit novel (or series) where there was a pantheon of deities that the “God” had somehow suppressed. The idea was that the story would not only be entertaining, but an allegory of the path early Christianity took to become the dominating religion. In Pagans and Christians: in the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the conversion of Constantine  the author Fox seems to be indicating Christianity was at first plagued by discrimination by existing pagan faiths, then co-existed with them, then finally over took them. This sentiment is echoed by other scholars. This path of Christianity, along with some of our darker points in history (like the Salem Witch Trials and the Spanish Inquisition) gave me a solid allegorical base.

As I researched the idea further, with the intention of justifying how I could make Yahweh the “bad guy” (although in The Lady of Zion “bad” is more a relative point of view than actual villainy), I discovered there was actually quite a lot of evidence to suggest in the development of Yahwehism, that Yahweh was in fact a part of a pantheon of gods, and he became the dominant deity of worship among his devotees along with his wife. Then, as Yahwehism and monotheism developed further this god became the “only” god. I believe I have elaborated elsewhere that the term Elohim (used in the Old Testament to denote heavenly hierarchy of angels) is believed to have originally indicated a pantheon of deities, with Elohim being the “plural form of the name of the deity El” (Burnett, 1999, p5). If “Elohim” is linguistically plural then it reinforces the statement by Day that “it has become increasingly clear that Yahweh, like the Canaanite god El, was envisaged as presiding over a council of heavenly beings.” (Day, 1986, p 17). My idea, scholarly speaking, had merit. I was excited to continue my research (although I never ended up completing my Masters for health reasons).

Returning to my original story idea and Fox’s summation of history, it seemed clear that at some point in religious history, one of the gods became “the God”, at least theologically speaking. So, in terms of my fiction, how did Yahweh become seen as the “only god”? That was one of the elements I needed to work out in The Lady of Zion. Further research helped me come up with an explanation.

Christian faith strongly believes that at some point in history there has been a war in Heaven, lead by Lucifer. A war would easily explain how one of the gods overtook the others in order to lead. Pagan religions such as Hellenists, Ancient Egyptians and more, all have stories in which the old gods were replaced by the new, usually with the father/king being deposed by the son. I decided to do similar with my characters in The Lady of Zion. I came across this gem written by John Day while I was researching for my thesis: “Yahweh inhabited the second tier as one of the children of the great father god El, or Elyon, whom Yahweh subsequently deposed… usurped the other second-tier gods and declared himself chief god” (Penchansky, 2005, citing John Day Wisdom in Ancient Israel). I felt like I had struck gold: another validating source for my idea, although, on the one hand it was disappointing that I couldn’t claim to have been the origin of this idea of the conquering Yahweh.

The more I research ideas I have, or the more I read what other writer’s have written, the more I am convinced in the collective unconscious. There are so many times I think I’ve come up with something 100% original and then find out later someone else has written almost the exact same story or come up with the same idea!

The surviving bits of myth we have from Ancient Canaan (you can read more about that here) indicate that Asherah, once the wife of El, at some point becomes the consort-wife of Yahweh after he dislodges El as King of the Gods. The bits of myth I’ve been able to find indicate her relationship with Yahweh was not a matter of the heart, but rather a strategy to ensure the safety of her family. In his doctoral thesis Yamashita writes, “Asherah sleeps with ‘the storm-god’ by agreement of Elkunirshar (husband) because he killed 77 or 88 of her children, further battles would be worse” (Yamashita p37) in this case the storm god is Baal and the story evocative of the myths of Lilith. In some Jewish faiths Lilith, once cast from the Garden of Eden, becomes the mother of monsters and God vows to kill all of her children (although there are many versions, you can read about it here). Lilith on the one hand is not cowed and continues to create monstrous offspring, while Asherah attempts to appease the war lord. But the goddess, as the Canaanites saw her, seems to know when to pick her battles. In the Baal Cycle, Asherah speaks on behalf of Baal to the gods when Baal attempts to claim the Kingship of Heaven. As Asherah herself had sons by El, to do so would be to cheat her sons out of their inheritance; “Asherah, whose son’s had royal ambitions themselves, also had to give her consent… and she joined Anat in promoting the construction of a house for Baal” (Coogan & Smith).

At some point during history Yahweh and Baal have become confused, with Yahweh taking Baal’s role as King of Heaven, and his consort Asherah. Baal became the main antagonist of the divine king. This view is discussed in Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh with the writer suggesting “since Asherah was El’s main consort in Canaanite religion her pairing with Yahweh, who is identified with El by biblical writers would make sense” (Olyan, 1988, p xiv) as Baal was the deity whom sought after El’s Kingship in Canaanite myth we can see how Baal becomes the villain. Further in the text Olyan writes, “it is… commonplace in biblical scholarship to assume that Asherah was the consort of Baal in the Iron Age, although she was El’s consort in the Bronze Age.’ (Olyan, 1988, p 38) this would indicate a theological dethroning of El as King in favour of Baal.

The New World Encyclopedia claims “Israelites shared many of the religious beliefs of their Canaanite neighbors, as the monotheistic idea developed, Baal became the chief villain of Israelite religion”, and as Yahweh was the Hebrew god of the Israelites, it is understandable how the conquering Yahwehists would assimilate some of local myths of the King of Heaven and his Queen by rewriting them to feature Yahweh. In this context we can see Asherah as a “spoil of war”. It was not uncommon for conquering nations to take wives from the conquered culture, and there is documented evidence that cultures like the Greeks and Romans often married their male gods to the local female deity in an effort to conquer the religion of the area. In this context we can see how the same narrative theological fate could have applied to Asherah. New World Encyclopedia’s versions of the myths of Baal differ slightly from others I’ve read, so while it supports an argument for the popularity of Yahweh to unseat Baal as King of the Gods, it should be noted that what we understand of the myths as the ancient Canaanites understood them is murky at best.

There is little doubt that as Queen of Heaven worship of Asherah was prominent prior to monotheism. It is clear from surviving archaeological discovers and texts that at one point in time Asherah was seen as the wife of Yahweh and worshipped alongside him. Next week I’ll go into further detail about the worship of Asherah, and what we can decipher from surviving texts about how the people of Cana might have related to her.

References:

Canaanite Mythology

Little is known about Canaanite mythology compared to other ancient cultures. As far as I can tell there is little in the way of ancient literature that has survived, or been found. It’s great for the writer in me, little established lore means my creative license can be quite liberal, but annoying for the mythology addict who desperately wants to know more.

*Fingers crossed archaeologists find more*

So what do we know about the beliefs of ancient Cana? 

An Amazon search reveals only six titles that appear to be directly related to Canaanite mythology. Of these I’ve purchased and read two, and one is so far out of my price range I imagine only a religious library or museum may be able to afford it (it currently costs over $900 AUD). I intend to purchase the more affordable titles when I can, but when I was first researching this story, I didn’t come across these books. A lot of my research into the goddess Asherah has come from academic databases and doctoral thesises (I’ll put some references at the bottom of the article).

The main surviving tales of the Canaanites seem to be The Baal cycle, a collection of stories featuring the deeds of Baal, a War God, and how he replaced El as head of the Pantheon. The Baal Cycle was recorded on stone tablets which were uncovered in Syria by a farmer, in what had once been a section of Ugarit (a Canaanite city). For a great summation of the Baal cycle click here. Other information we know about Canaanite mythology comes from other religious texts (such as the Christian Bible and the Torah), although how accurate these interpretations are is debatable. Asherah and Baal are mentioned several times in the Old Testament as heathen gods whom the idolaters worship when they should be worshipping Yahweh. Asherah is one of the deities the Bible tells us was worshipped by Jezebel.

I imagine that the stories of Ugarit mythology are much like those of Cana’s near neighbours Sumer, Akkad, Babylon and Assyria. These would be stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh (a hero’s journey story such as Heracles), Innana’s Descent (a goddess who descends to the Underworld story), Tammuz (a dying god story), and more. These myths all share archetypes common to each other, and one can therefore assume to the geographical region, as well as archetypal associations (War God, Thunder God, Underworld Goddess etc). It is this geographic nearness and the commonality of themes in the mythologies we do know that suggest to me similar would be found in Canaanite mythology.

The story we know of Baal includes his imprisonment in the Underworld by King Mot, a motif that would indicate he was possibly worshipped as a “dying god”, a god whom overcomes death and is resurrected much like Tammuz or Osiris. We know that Baal Hammon is God of Fertility and it is likely that “Hammon” is an epithet of the Warrior God as opposed to another god with the same first name. 

Using these near neighbouring mythologies one can easily imagine a tale in which Kothar-Wa-Khasis (the craftsman god) creates an item of beauty or magic as a gift for a goddess or hero. Qadeshtu is the Goddess of Love in this pantheon and so one can expect there were likely myths surrounding her love life, much as the myths of Isis, Aphrodite, and Inanna. Indeed this idea has inspired me to write a collection of short myths featuring these deities as they appear in The Lady of Zion Universe. Naturally these myths I’ve written are completely fictitious and do not reflect what the ancient Canaanites believed. More than anything they are a companion piece to The Lady of Zion novels and novellas that help explain the history of the LOZ Universe. 

While we might not know the actual stories of the Canaanite deities, apart from Baal’s rise to King, we do know the roles they played in Canaanite theology. It is unclear how important some of the deities were in everyday life, but we can imagine that they too would have been similar to the important deities of other Mesopotamian mythologies. Likely Asherah, El, and Baal would have been favoured highly, especially to the state, being the heads of the pantheon. To a people in constant conflict with their neighbours Anat and Baal were especially likely to have been prominent. Qadeshtu, Goddess of Love, was likely to be another prominent figure in the daily life of ancient Canaanites for if human nature has told us anything its that love and war are intrinsic to our societies and psychology. Kotharat too was likely to figure prominently in the life of women as Goddess of Marriage and Pregnancy. 

I really enjoyed exploring these deities in my writing. The Lady of Zion is by no means a retelling of Canaanite mythology, rather it is a blend of ancient story structures and mythic archetypes in a modern urban fantasy setting. Mythic inspiration for the story has predominately come from Greek, Egyptian, Ugarit, and Judeo-Christian tales but the gods are named after their Canaanite counterparts (although I’ve changed some of their roles). A list of Canaanite deities can be found here, but for many I haven’t come across their stories. Baal (warrior god), Anat (warrior goddess), El (King of the Gods), Mot (King of the Underworld) and Asherah (Queen of the Gods) feature prominently in the Baal cycle, and so these are the deities we know best from Cana. I picked Canaanite mythology as a base for my characters and settings for a few reasons, one being the lack of lore, and because other mythologies such as Greek or Egyptian have been done by a thousand other authors. Canaanite mythology is relatively unexplored and is one of the ancient origins of Christianity. In The Lady of Zion, Lilith takes the place of Anat as a warrior goddess. 

My primary texts of inspiration of Canaanite mythology while researching were were Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan by John Day, and Stories from Ancient Canaan by Michael C. Gibson. This second title is a translation of The Baal Cycle. Day’s title on the other hand was an academic exploration of Yahweh and El being conflagrated in the Bible, the relationship between El and Asherah, Yahweh and Baal as rivals, and more. However this text focuses not on retelling the myths of these deities (as I’d hoped) but on delineating on how the origins of Christianity, and the iconography of the Old Testament, grew out of the worship of these deities. 

I’m pretty disappointed that I can’t just run out and buy a book of Canaanite mythology the way you could of Norse deities or Greek. Hopefully some clever archaeologist will be able to piece together the original myths in the future. In the meantime if you want to read some of the articles and books I used for research here are some of the ones I found most useful.

Resources:

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cana/hd_cana.htm

– Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes

– The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

– Twilight of the Gods: Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible by D. Penchansky 

– About El, Asherah, Yahweh and Anath by B. Urrutia, In American Anthropologist

– The Goddess Asherah (Doctoral Dissertation) by T. Yamashita

– Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan by John Day

– Stories from Ancient Canaan by Michael C. Gibson

Other Resources:
(These I haven’t read but are on my Amazon wishlist)

– Canaanite Myths and Legends by John C. Gibson  (I’m hoping this might have more than just the myths of Baal)

– Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic by Frank Moore Cross

– The Canaanites: Their History and Culture from Texts and Artifacts by Mary Ellen Buck

– Ancient Canaanites: The Civilization of Canaan Before the Israelites by History Titans

The Fall of Lucifer: Lord of Light to The Adversary

Fallen Angel. King of Demons. Lord of Hell. Satan. The Devil. How the mighty has fallen. Lucifer is many things to many people. From a symbol of rebellion to the idea of evil incarnate, few figures of mythology have such an immediate reaction in people as Lucifer. But is our idea of Lucifer accurate? To many religious groups Lucifer is the Devil, the monster in the night, the one who leads humankind astray. But historically, and biblically, is there a basis for this belief?

In The Social History of Satan, the “Intimate Enemy”: A Preliminary Sketch the author writes
            “[In the] history of religion. Where did this figure originate, and what is its
            role? Satan is scarcely present in traditional Judaism to this day and is not
            present at all in classical Jewish sources.” (Pagels, 1991)
Similar can be said of the Christian Bible. For an antagonist so commonly campaigned against by Christian groups he is barely mentioned in their holy text.  

Christian myth tells us Lucifer was an Archangel who wanted to be recognised as superior to humans. “This assumption is often based the book of Isaiah in the Bible which says, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”” (History.com). In this narrative Lucifer generally wishes to be equal to God, or at least higher than humanity. God (Yahweh) then casts Lucifer to Earth or Hell as punishment.
          “Lucifer became jealous that the Lord God did not require that the
          creation worship him, for he had been with God in the very creation
          of his offspring. And so he would not bow before the light of the
          offspring of the Most High”
          (Prophet, 2010, p 32)
In this instance “offspring” refers to humankind. In Judaic ideology Lucifer as Satan is an agent of God, and his role is significantly different from Islamic and Christian ideas of Lucifer.

Islamic myth tells us Lucifer, there named Iblis, was an Archangel who, when ordered to be supplicant to humanity, and either refused to idolise any power that was not Allah (God) or insisted he was better than mankind. In my research I have more frequently come across the first version of the myth, in which Iblis is devout in his belief that Allah, not mankind, should be worshipped. In this action he defies the will of God and is cast from heaven.

But Lucifer, as an entity or symbol, is much older than these religions. If we look at the role Lucifer plays in mythology his presence can be equated to many celestial figures. As the light bringer he can be equated to Apollo of Greco-Roman mythology, Utu of Babylonian/Sumerian mythology, Attar in Canaanite (Ugarit) mythology, Shamash of Mesopotamian mythology, or Dazbog of Slavic mythology. These are all male deities of the Sun and quite a few of them are considered to rule over the Underworld, or the dark places, when the day is done. Here we can see a distinct parallel to Lucifer the archangel who “falls” to the Underworld where he becomes King over the dead or damned. In monotheistic religion there can be only one god and so stories that replace, or fill the place of, the stories of polytheism become stories of angels and demons, or lesser spirits. Some academics even believe that a number of Christian saints evolved out of the worship of old deities. The most famous example I can think of is St Brigid is supposed to be synonymous with the Gaelic Goddess Brigid. Branfionn NicGrioghair claims “She was transformed by the Church of St. Brigid into St. Brigid about 453 C.E.” (NicGrioghair, mythicireland.com)

In Strega (an Italian Witchcraft Tradition) Lucifer is a God. According to LuciaStar on the Umbraferra website “Lucifer derives from lux (light) and ferre (to bear), which would make Lucifer literally translate to Light-Bearer” (check out the blog here). LuciaStar also claims that Lucifer is considered to be a minor Roman diety and that “Strega’s see Lucifer as a brave rebel whom opposed the tyrannical Yahweh.” This idea of Lucifer being a God is echoed in Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches. In Leland’s text Lucifer is the father of Aradia by Diana, his sister. In Leland’s view Lucifer is the God figure and Diana is the Goddess. Leland’s views were that Aradia taught women witchcraft to fight the oppressive forces in their lives, namely “feudal overlords and the Catholic Church”. In this instance it is clear Leland’s Aradia is playing a similar role to the conventional idea of Lucifer and his fallen angels; she is a rebel who, like the Watchers of Enoch, teaches humans secret and occult knowledge. Here we can see the two distinct aetiologies of Fallen Angels (the Angels who fell with Lucifer, and the Angels who fell through lust of women and sharing secret knowledge. (Prophet, 2010)) conflagrated into one, providing the figure of Aradia a parallel place within the literature of tempting agents and educators. Light is often an allegory or symbol for knowledge (hence the English term “enlightenment” is synonymous for learning) so in this instance Aradia is fulfilling the traditional role of a Fallen Angel.  

So how did Lucifer become seen as The Adversary, the Devil? There is evidence and academic speculation that in Christianity’s bid to become the dominant world religion a didactic schism needed to be created. A polarisation between good and evil. Enter Lucifer. The Lucifer of Christian and Islamic mythology became synonymous with evil, despite there being no mention of his role as such in the Christian Bible, not even to say he rules over Hell. History.com suggests the concept of Lucifer ruling Hell originated in Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Indeed Satan (a figure commonly interpreted as Lucifer) generally translates as Accuser, and his role in Judeo-Christian mythology is to point the finger of blame at sinners and potentially punish them. “Satan was still a title that designated a specific function” (Pagels) and over time the title became a pronoun. Pagel even goes as far as to describe Satan as “a kind of divine prosecuting attorney”. This idea, or interpretation, is echoed in “Satan” in the Hebrew Bible by P. Day.

Rabbi Danzinger writes, “According to Torah, no spiritual force opposes G‑d. This includes Satan, who is a spiritual entity that faithfully carries out its divinely assigned task of trying to seduce people to stumble.” (Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger). In the Torah Satan/Lucifer acts as a punisher. Further Rabbi Kravtiz postures that, “Satan has no free will of his own and is given permission by God to torment Job to test his loyalty to Him. Thus, we see that Satan is a force, an angel, used by God to test mankind.” (Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz).

Lucifer as Satan, the embodiment of evil and ruler of Hell, seems to be a modern Christian man-made invention, that has morphed over time to suit the needs of the church, grown from the Jewish figure of Satan and the parallel mythologies of a fallen god or goddess descending to rule the land of the dead. ). P. L. Day writes in “Satan” in the Hebrew Bible “[The Book of] job is more advanced because, since God’s growing omnipotence rendered the post of Accuser redundant, the Satan’s role expanded beyond those boundaries and the character became more [seen as] more malicious.” (Day, 1986, p29). It is likely that around the time Lucifer’s character changed in the writings of Job so too did his image to the Christian masses.

In Faith or Fear Schroeder writes
            “belief in divine punishment provided an extra buffer against selfish
            missteps. Importantly, according to Johnson and Bering’s analysis,
            god-fearing beliefs provided a better social strategy… Fear of divine
            punishment, on the other hand, might prevent such individuals from
            misbehaving in the first place” (Shroeder, 2015).

Fear of Lucifer, Demons, and Hell; makes believers malleable to church doctrine and thus is a useful tool that has been exploited over time. We have seen again and again in human history horrific things done under this exploitation (Salem Witch Trials, Spanish Inquisition, and much more).

My research appears to indicate that Lucifer of myth is much like the Lucifer of the Lucifer TV show. He has a dirty job that no one really wants to do, and people fear or hate him for it. In 1886 Nietzsche wrote, “That which an age considers evil is usually an unseasonable echo of what was formally considered good”, and the journey from Lucifer as the Lightbringer to the Adversary can easily be quantified as such. It does not take much to see how as humankind moved from polytheistic religion to monotheistic faith figures or symbols of ideology that were once seen as “good” became seen as “bad”, for if there are no other deities than “God” then all others who lay claim to having the power of gods must therefore be the antithesis of God; God’s creation twisted into his nemesis. If there is good there “must” be evil, and if God is good then the rebelling Lucifer “must” be evil in the minds of humankind. There is no basis for belief of Lucifer as evil incarnate in any of the texts I have studied. This belief must therefore arise from fear for there is no textual basis for the church to have expounded upon. Like Lilith, Lucifer is a character much maligned by the Christian church for what can only be described as free-thinking, and a stubborn refusal to submit to a “higher” authority. Is it perhaps this intolerance to the idea of being controlled that causes these figures to be symbols of rebellion?  

Sources and Further Reading:

https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/why-jews-cannot-accept-the-new-testament
https://umbraferra.wordpress.com/category/lucifer/
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Iblis
https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/512017/jewish/Is-there-any-sort-of-Purgatory-or-Satan-in-Jewish-teachings.htm
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1294183.Aradia
https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/history-of-the-devil
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10177-lucifer
https://www.mythicalireland.com/myths-and-legends/brigid-bright-goddess-of-the-gael/
Day, P. L. (1986.). “Satan’ In the Hebrew Bible (Divine Council, Job (Book Of))(Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (Order No. 8704474)
Leland, C. (1899). Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.
Neitszche, F. W. (1886) Beyond Good and Evil.
Pagels, E. (1991). “The Social History of Satan, the “Intimate Enemy”: A Preliminary Sketch”. In The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 105-128. Published by: Cambridge University Press
Prophet, C. (2010). Fallen Angels Among Us. USA: Summit University Press
Schroeder, S. (2015) Faith or Fear. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/faith-or-fear

The Lilith Archetype

Lilith. The Dark Mother. Mother of Demons. I’ve written previously about the Lilith archetype in relation to the types of protagonists in Angel Lit and the Great Mother archetype. I feel like I’ve made a good case as to why Lilith is an important archetype, and why she’s important to young female readers. Today I want to explore her a little more.

Lilith is most famously the first wife of Adam in Judaism, a figure cast out and demonised for refusing to submit to the will of her husband. But Lilith in religious literature has other origins and other stories too. She is not merely the baby killing demon of the night Judaism painted her to be. Lilith has been seen as a desert spirit, a storm spirit, a goddess, a demon, a human, and a handmaiden to Inanna. In Sumerian literature Lilith plays a role (under the name Lilitu) in the Epic of Gilgamesh and figures of Lilith dating back to ancient Babylon have been recovered. According to Natalia Klimczak from ancient-origins.net Lilith was a figure in the myths and culture of the Hittite, Egyptians, Greek, Israeli and Roman peoples.

Lilith as the Dark Mother can be known under many other names; Hekate, Kali, Erishkegel, Circe, Medea, The Wicked Witch of the West, Bellatrix Lestrange, Baba Yaga, Maleficent, The Evil Queen. Any dark and powerful figure in the realm of mythology, folklore, fairy tale and fiction is a potential Dark Mother. Whether they are intentionally evil or simply misunderstood these figures are representations of the Dark Mother. The Dark Mother, the Lilith, is a force of nature. She creates as easily as she destroys.

Cyndi Brannen says of Hekate,

               “While there are many different ways of understanding Hekate, there is little
               argument over her status as an ancient, powerful Dark Goddess. She is the night,
               the shadow, and rebirth. She is also the light that leads us through hell. She is
               necessary to guide us through these troubling times.” (Brannen, Nov 2019)

The same can be said of Lilith. Lilith calls us to fight, to become wild and untamable, to take that which we want and deserve, and to be unconquerable.

I believe that the portrayal of Lilith-women, in popular culture like Angel Lit, and in real life (I mean Nancy Pelosi ripping up Trump’s impeachment speech is a bad ass Lilith thing to do, so is calling the speech in question a “manifesto of mistruths”) has been a major turning point for our western culture.

Even before the advent of Angel Lit we had pop culture figures embracing the Lilith archetype and inspiring real women to do the same. Buffy, Zoe Wash, Daenerys Targaryen, Dorothy Gale (hey she killed two powerful witches in her quest to get home), Rowena MacLeod, Brienne of Tarth (okay so there’s a ton of Lilith characters in GOT), Xena Warrior Princess, Mulan, Veronica Mars, Jessica Jones, Katniss Everdeen, Sabrina Spellman (in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Hermione Granger (she broke rules when it suited her and used transfiguration as a form of punishment on adults twice her age while still in school) are all pop culture icons and they all exhibited aspects of the Lilith archetype. In real life we can see the Lilith woman in Rose McGowan, Jacinda Arden, Megan Markle, Tina Fey, Celeste Barber, Kesha and so many more.

They refused to play by the rules. They forged their own way through their worlds. They were unapologetic about fighting for what they believed in, even if it had the potential to get them into dangerous situations. Veronica Mars was nearly murdered trying to find out who killed her best friend, and she made sure the villain got what was coming to them. Hermione Granger uses her wits and her intellect to make her world a better place, not just for herself but for everyone in it, and is not afraid to get her hands dirty to do it. Mercy in the Mercy Series is an Angel who doesn’t display that which she is named for when it comes to punishing a man who has been abusing teenage girls. She uses her powers to blind and maim him while she waits for the police to back her up.

Jaclyn Cherie at Nephilim Rising put it like this “the world is full of angry Women, and the people who love them.”

These characters, and the women inspired by them, are refusing to be subjugated, like Lilith. In Feminist and Rebel Angels I covered some of the popular characters of Angel lit and how they fit the Lilith Archetype. In The Great Mother in YAUF I wrote:

               “The Lilith nature requires women to question everything, to refuse to bow to
               compromising pressures and to refuse to acknowledge a patriarchal authority
               that only serves its own interests.”

In reality it is any compromising pressure that the Lilith woman cannot abide.

Lilith, as an archetype, is at the forefront of our consciousness as a society, even if we don’t realise it. In these times of political upheaval, global pandemics, and social justice movements, the energy of the Lilith archetype is a strong current in our world.

Lilith is the spirit of #metoo and the women coming forward with their heartbreaking stories. Lilith is the women fighting to fix climate change. Lilith is the women fighting for better reproductive health accessibility. The Lilith women are here, they’re angry, and they aren’t going to quietly go away. I don’t know what the future holds but it is being forged right now. Our choices are shaping our future and the characters I’ve mentioned earlier, and many more, have contributed to how women are perceiving the world. There has been a shift in our consciousness and now there is a shift in our actions. For authors like myself it is no longer enough to write about how the future could be, although we will never stop doing this, we must plant the seeds of the future in our stories for other women to read. Writing is no longer enough; our words must match our actions. We, as well as the women we inspire, must water those seeds to make the future better for everyone.  

The Lilith Archetype, and indeed Lilith herself as a character, have been instrumental in inspiring my upcoming series The Lady of Zion. The protagonist Grace Haskiel is an embodiment of the Lilith archetype, a woman who is unapologetic as she attempts to take down the ultimate patriarchal figure, and who sees what she wants and goes after it. Later in the series Lilith herself becomes a vital character guiding Grace and helping to build a better world. 

The Lady of Zion is in Beta Reading at the moment and I’m trying to get it ready to be launched for the 30th of March 2020. 

Some of the sites that were mentioned in this article or inspired it:

Book Review: Haunted On Bourbon

Book Review: Haunted On Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun #1)
Author: Deanna Chase
Genre: Paranormal Romance
$$$: $0 AUD for Kindle,
       $21.65 AUD Paperback
       (at 3/2/2020)
Publisher: Bayou Moon Press, LLC (23 November 2013) ASIN: B005EHRSUY

I give it: 4 stars

Blurb from Amazon:

Jade loves her new apartment—until a ghost joins her in the shower.

When empath Jade Calhoun moves into an apartment above a strip bar on Bourbon Street, she expects life to get interesting. What she doesn’t count on is making friends with an exotic dancer, attracting a powerful spirit, and developing feelings for Kane, her sexy landlord.

Being an empath has never been easy on Jade’s relationships. It’s no wonder she keeps her gift a secret. But when the ghost moves from spooking Jade to terrorizing Pyper, the dancer, it’s up to Jade to use her unique ability to save her. Except she’ll need Kane’s help—and he’s betrayed her with a secret of his own—to do it. Can she find a way to trust him and herself before Pyper is lost?”


First thing I want to say about this book is that it is a part of several series, not just Chase’s Jade Calhoun series. I’m not sure what she’s calling the universe this story sits in (I’m going to call it the Spirits of Bourbon Street) but in her world the stories of several series are interlinked. For example connected to this series is the Pyper Rayne series. Pyper is Jade’s friend and I actually began reading this universe with Pyper’s first novel Spirits, Stilettos and a Silver Bustier. SSSB is clearly set after Haunted on Bourbon Street but reading them “out of order” was no hindrance to the enjoyment of either book. Judging from the content Haunted On Bourbon Street is our first foray in to Jade and Pyper’s world.

I picked this book up as a freebie, I think it was a recommendation from read.freely, or from the author’s newsletter. I really enjoyed this book so I decided to do a review for you my lovely readers. In the interest of transparency, I am not getting paid for this, and the book wasn’t a freebie in return for a review. I just really enjoyed it and thought you might too.

So, Haunted on Bourbon Street. What a starting place for a series. Jade has just moved to New Orleans only to find her best friend shacking up with Jade’s ex so she’s on the lookout for a new place to live. She rents an apartment above a strip club only to discover the owner wasn’t lying about the handsy ghost rumoured to live in the place. But when the ghost begins to hurt people though Jade knows the ghost has got to go.

It was really fun to read the “will they won’t they” of Jade and Kane’s relationship and get to know the other characters of the series like Bea a little better. I got to know their backgrounds and relationships more fully in this book. The story didn’t go into as much detail as I’d probably would have liked, but as it’s part one of a series I’m assuming things that didn’t get expanded upon probably will in a future book. Sidenote: Can I get like a Book-Daddy who buys me all the books I want and then brings me tea while I read them? This book is full of sexual tension, sleuthing to find out who the ghost is and how to get rid of him, magic, and the best part of all: finding friends who are your kind of crazy. My favourite scene was probably the first time Jane and Kane get it on. It was well written and romantic. You could really feel the passion between the characters.

Haunted On Bourbon Street was an easy read. I read it in a couple of hours (maybe three or four). Chase has a great talent for the craft of writing and enough knowledge of the Craft to make the magic realistic. I really enjoy her writing (I think this is the third book of hers I’ve read) and look forward to getting further into her catalogue. I recommend this book for readers who enjoy paranormal romance, PR cozy mysteries, and books about fictional witches.

Interested in this book? I made the cover a link to take you straight to Amazon. This is not an affiliate link, I was just trying to be helpful) 

Book Review: The Vampire’s Last Dance

 

 (Image screenshot from www.amazon.com)

  The Vampire’s Last Dance (Witch Island Brides #1)
  Author: Deanna Chase
  Genre: Paranormal Romance
  $$$: $4.99 AUD/$3.99 USD
  Publisher: Bayou Moon Press, LLC (April 5, 2018)
  Publication Date: April 5, 2018
  ISBN: 1940299578

  4 stars

Curses. Witches. Vampires. Bridezillas. This book had it all. Witch Island is the premier paranormal wedding location in Chase’s created world, and the hometown of Felicia Patterson, a witch cursed to never have her own happy ending. All Felicia’s relationships are doomed to fail after her jealous cousin curses the florist to a life of loneliness. Enter Christopher Park, a vampire burned by past love and determined to live the bachelor life.

I picked this book up as a freebie, I think it was a recommendation from read.freely, or from the author’s newsletter. I really enjoyed this book so I decided to do a review for you my lovely readers. In the interest of transparency, I am not getting paid for this, and the book wasn’t a freebie in return for a review. I just really enjoyed it and thought you might too. I enjoyed other works by this author (Haunted on Bourbon Street and Spirits, Stilettos and a Silver Bustier) and so I was excited to read this book.

What can I say about The Vampire’s Last Dance? You know the romance book is going to be sexy and funny when the protagonists meet in the opening scene with Felicia creating bouquets of flowers and vibrators for a hen’s night. Unlike Chase’s Jade Calhoun and Pyper Rayne books paranormal creatures and magical users do not seem to have to hide in the Witch Island series. Witch Island caters to the supernatural, giving them a place to play, or live, their lives freely. Romance aside, when a mysterious witch causes trouble for the wedding Felicia has been hired to work for, it comes down to Felicia and Christopher to find the witch responsible and fix the relationship between the bride and groom before the wedding is cancelled for good.

Witch Island is the kind of place, if it existed in the real world, I’d love to visit. The author made not only the characters appealing, but the location as well. I pictured a small, semi-tropical island, maybe off the coast of New England America or the Florida Keys.

The Vampire’s Last Dance was an enchanting, funny, engrossing and easy to read (I think I read it within 3 hours). The story focuses on the romance between Felicia and Christopher, but introduces a host of side characters whom I’d love to read more about, especially the local healer Mystia. I really enjoyed Felicia and found her relatable. She had a wicked sense of humour. I found the depiction of the villainess a little flat, playing her role in perpetuity, not learning from her past.

My favourite part of the book was probably the Bingo Club scene, but I’m not going to go into details for fear of spoilers. Needless to say, I found it extremely funny. The book, in parts, didn’t seem very realistic. I don’t think that the relationship between Felicia and Christopher would have developed so quickly especially with Felicia feeling held back by her curse, and Christopher’s fear of being burnt again. That said, no one reads romance novels for their realism because the realism would usually kill the romance quickly.

I recommend this book for readers who enjoy paranormal romance, PR cozy mysteries, and books about fictional witches.

Book Review: All Souls Trilogy

Disclaimer: This was originally posted on my old website 10/09/19

Yesterday was crazy! I was away from my computer for most of the day so this post is later than usual, but as this post keeps getting delayed I really didn’t want to postpone it further. This week I’m reviewing the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. In the interest of transparency; I thought I read this series over the last couple of months. On reviewing my notes I realised that I read A Discovery of Witches over September/October 2018, Shadow Night over July/August 2019, and The Book of Life over August/September 2019. I reviewed Shadow of Night on Goodreads but I haven’t reviewed A Discovery of Witches or The Book of Life. If you follow me on Goodreads you might recognise some of the content from below.

I decided to read the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness because I’d heard good things about it and I’d seen Bad Wolf and Sky Productions were making a series (is it still a TV series if it’s made for streaming services? Do we need a new vernacular for the streaming phenomenon?) of it with one of my favourite actresses (Alex Kingston) so I wanted to read the books before I saw the show. I haven’t been able to see the show yet because I don’t have Foxtel. The internet tells me it is accessible on Foxtel or Amazon Prime, although I’ve not been able to find it in my Prime content. 

I’ve read a lot of Urban Fantasy and the All Soul’s trilogy holds its own in the genre. There is something I can’t quite define that makes it different from other similar books, yet still satisfies the expectations and conventions of the genre. Perhaps this is because it is adult fiction. Young Adult Urban Fantasy is more common and other Adult Urban Fantasy seems to mirror YA tropes. The heroine, Diana Bishop, is in her 30s. I don’t recall Matthew’s “human” age (for as a Vampire he is like insanely old) but he is of a similar age. These are well rounded characters with their foibles and their gifts, and thankfully not the angst ridden teens of YA. I’m going to endeavour not to release any spoilers, although some plot points will be discussed. 


The first one, A Discovery of Witches, was ok. I give it a 3/5 stars. I thought some of the scenes played out a little too long but it was an enjoyable read. I grew to really love the Diana character and felt that, if she were real, we’d get along great. A Discovery of Witches seemed to focus on Diana and Matthew’s relationship with a lot of world building. In contrast the later books seemed to focus more on the adventure/search for Ashmole 782 (a mysterious magical manuscript that creatures the world over are searching for) over their relationship, and whilst I enjoyed paranormal romances the search for Ashmole 782 interested me far more than Diana and Matthew’s relationship. This series, whilst having a distinct romance sub plot is more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance.

In the world of ADoW there are four “distinct” creatures: humans, witches, vampires and daemons. The first three are pretty self explanatory in nature, having been staples of the genre for decades, although the daemons were a nice touch. These daemons are not hellish creatures such as you would find in Supernatural, Charmed or Buffy, these demons are more like fae creatures or muses. They are heavily creative forces often lurking in human society as “genius” poets, artists etc. As Diana and Matthew are Witch and Vampire respectively, their creature allies and enemies are focused on more often than the daemons; who I would have liked to learn more about. There is a council of 9 elders (3 from each creature group, no human representatives) called the Congregation who are effectively the creature law keepers, upholding the segregation of the species and keeping them safe from human discovery. Diana and Matthew’s relationship breaks their law so due in part to this Diana and Matthew disappear into history to buy themselves time at the end of ADoW.

I enjoyed Shadow of Night so much more than its predecessor. I give it 5/5 stars. I found the pacing much improved in SON and was impressed with the historical accuracy. In SoN Diana and Matthew are hiding out in Elizabethan England, in no less danger than they were before. In fact with witch trials happening in North Berwick, Scotland, they may be in more danger than ever. Which does pose the question of why they thought time walking to the past was the solution to their problems in modern day England. That said, the characters were enjoyable (both old and new) especially the Elizabethan ones, and I appreciated Shakespeare essentially being a footnote in the book and not one of the School of Night. It is unusual for a book/story centered on Elizabethan England to not focus on Shakespeare and I found it refreshing. I learnt quite a bit reading this book as there were figures from British history that I hadn’t come across before. Names like Dr Dee and Edward Kelley were familiar but not so much the other characters (with the exception of Sir Walter Raleigh). I enjoyed the Elizabethan coven as well, and rather wished I could have spent time with them too.


I was suitably horrified by the creeptastic revelation made regarding Ashmole 782 (which I will not go into here due to spoilers). It was horrendous yet seemed the perfect choice for the narrative. There was one part of the book that I thought the author glossed over where more detail would have been appropriate but again, I won’t mention that part due to spoilers. SoN kept me engaged through the whole story and I had trouble putting it down. Gallowglass became one of my favourite characters as did the Lord of Northumberland. Diana’s magic becomes more pronounced during SoN, and as such more magical events occur. These were written beautifully and were utterly fascinating. Upon finishing this book I rushed out to my local library to borrow The Book of Life. (Note I forgot to take a photo of Shadow of Night so to the left there’s a screenshot I took from Amazon. The copy I read was a red and black cover matching the two I remembered to take photos of.) 

The Book of Life blended the first two books together, and while I enjoyed it much more than ADoW, I enjoyed SoN the most out of the three. I give TBoL 4/5 stars because I would have liked some of the story lines played out a little more. Diana and Matthew have returned to their own time and must resume the search for Ashmole 782, as well as contend with the Congregation who are out to punish Diana and Matthew for their forbidden romance. Like ADoW some parts were slow moving but it was enjoyable none the less. Like the Elizabethan coven, I enjoyed getting to know the coven Sarah (Diana’s aunt) belongs to in America, and I enjoyed some of the surprises TBoL held regarding characters from SoN. It was nice to see science explaining/justifying magic, complementing each other instead of creating the usual either or situation. As such revelations about the origins of the four creature groups conveyed powerful messages that can be applied to real life situations. I would have liked some of the characters story lines developed more. My favourite character arrived in book two and towards the end of book three he just disappears. There’s narrative reason for this, and it makes sense, but there’s a small epilogue at the end. It would have been nice to see him get his happy ending too.

It was really satisfying to see Diana really come into her own in TBoL, and take back the power she’d always denied. Diana and Matthew’s relationship is that of equals, something I especially appreciated, they are both powerful in their own right and great role models. Urban Fantasy as a genre can have a tendancy to promote relationships that are quite imbalanced, often to the detriment of the female character (I’ve discussed it previously here in regards to the Fallen series), and while Matthew technically is “more powerful” than Diana for most of the series he tries really hard not to rule over her. As with all relationships one partner will inevitably will take on a leadership role. In my opinion Chick Lit and Chick Flicks often portray unrealistic “perfect” romances that can be psychologically damaging when they can’t be found in the real world. Harkness has portrayed a relationship of two essentially equal partners working together to build their relationship. Neither partner is prefect and it’s not a “perfect” relationship but the characters as continually developing their relationship and communication skills together. It was refreshing to read and I really enjoyed seeing such a healthy relationship represented. 

I wasn’t quite prepared for the horrors of the character of Benjamin, briefly mentioned in SoN, and a major antagonist in TBoL, but his actions were part of what made him so horrific and had a place in the narrative. Warning: I did find some of Benjamin’s scenes triggering. Although I did like that there was a bit of a role reversal in the story. Slight spoiler: in most Urban Fantasy books I’ve read if a character like Benjamin came along he would take Diana captive causing Matthew to rescue her. While there is a capture and rescue plot, it is Diana who does the rescuing which was a refreshing change, and she is helped by her allies in a way that shows strong friendships are an asset rather than indicating she is too weak to be the hero on her own. Diana is an excellent heroine, flawed and gifted all at once. She’s relatable and strong (kind of like Buffy) and the world needs more characters of this quality.

One thing that did disappoint me about this series is that in the Book of Life there is a scene that is eerily similar to a scene I wrote in 2017 for Samhain Sorcery (which comes out next month: eek). I suppose it goes to show, that even with the best intentions, nothing is truly original. I certainly hadn’t read this book prior to writing Samhain Sorcery, in fact I finished writing the book last year. And if I had I would have probably changed the scene I wrote. It didn’t make me enjoy the book any less although I’ll be honest and admit that I had a slight panic attack that people might think I’d copied Deborah Harkness on purpose. I didn’t; it’s just one of those things. I think that with Indie Authors flooding the market (which is good in so many ways) it is going to be harder for writers to write truly “original” content. It is quite possible, as this tale shows, to write extremely similar scenes, without having ever heard of the content that came first. There are only so many situations, types of character and props that we can write about after all. There have been so many times where I’ve gone back and changed scenes in manuscripts I’ve been working on after having read similar content elsewhere. I try to live my personal and professional life ethically and with honour. I want to be remembered for my writing for the right reasons. 

I highly recommend this series. Harkness has a follow up book out focusing on the relationship of Marcus (Matthew’s son) and his partner. I’m definitely going to look for that at my local library. I hope that the author writes more, although judging by her Goodreads bibliography she tends to write non-fiction, because she writes well and is engaging.