Book Review: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit by Storm Constantine
What's it About?
Pellaz Cevarro knew little of the world beyond the farm where he has spent the first seventeen years of his sheltered life. With his parents and siblings, he works hard to raise and harvest the ugly and pungent crops which sustain their way of life. The only real news of the world beyond the farm comes from occasional passers-by.
This is how rumours about a terrifying new tribe of people first come to their ears. Pell's parents are glad that their remote farm seems unlikely to attract attention from the vicious thugs known mysteriously as Wraeththu, who leave kidnap boys and slaughter everyone else. Nobody knows where they came from or why they live as they do. Is this just another violent youth movement, or something more sinister?
Life quietly chugs along on the farm until the day that Cal rode up on a horse, and Pell was instantly captivated by his otherworldly beauty. As with all travellers, Cal is welcomed into the Cevarro family home, and he repays their kind hospitality with news of world events. There is much that he doesn't reveal, however.
Cal is Wraeththu, and Pell's destiny seems sealed.
What follows is a long journey as Pell and Cal travel from place to place, meeting various Wraeththu tribes and learning different things from each. Cal dreams of travelling to Immanion, the fabled fabulous city created by the first of the Wraeththu, and Pell makes another kind of journey as he undergoes the physiological, psychological and spiritual changes from being merely human to becoming an initiated Wraeththu of increasing rank.
Pell learns that the different Wraeththu tribes have their own distinct cultures, aims and philosophies. Some tribes can be the merciless murderers which rumours had described, but other tribes offer a much more advanced culture with a deeply spiritual core, as Pell discovers for himself when he undergoes magical rituals which have the power to terrify, enchant and transform.
This is a story about personal change and what it means to be human and an evolving sentient being. Are free will and destiny opposites, or can they operate in conjunction? What does it mean to be manipulated by a predestined role, a role which is perhaps unwanted? Who creates destiny, and why is one person chosen for destiny but not another, and can a person decline?
These are the questions which Pell must face as he undertakes the biggest journey of them all.
About the Author
Storm Constantine's writing was influenced by the mythologies of Ancient Egypt and Greece. The mid-1980's alternative music scene in Britain provided the basis for many of her characters, and Constantine worked with many of the bands around at that time, creating illustrations or written work for them, and even becoming manager for the band Empyrean.
Born in England on 12th October, 1956, she was briefly a student at art college but found it too restrictive there. She founded a magazine, Visionary Tongues, in collaboration with other artists and writers. There is also an online magazine, Inception.
A Reiki practitioner, Constantine has written more than 20 novels and 7 non-fiction books, plus short stories.
In 2003, she created her own publishing company, Immanion Press, having been previously published traditionally but finding her early novels out of print. Immanion Press now publish a number of others authors, including the late Tanith Lee. The non-fiction branch of Immanion Press, Megalithica Books, publishes books on magic, the occult, the paranormal and spirituality.
An Interview with Storm Constantine
What's to Like?
A powerful imagination has created a whole new world with the Wraeththu Mythos. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit is just the first in a series of novels and short stories about a new hybrid race of androgynous beings.
Exactly how the Wraeththu tribes arose, and exactly how the world as we know it experienced the dramatic geological and cultural upheavals that have given birth to Pell's environment are left untold. But our narrator is Pell himself, and at the start of his tale he knows little but life on the farm with his family, and so the reader's discoveries are also Pell's own discoveries as they gradually unfold for him.
Pell begins the tale as a bratty, sheltered boy who is used to having his own way to a large extent. He sulks, he complains, he wants to know everything at once, even when Cal repeatedly tries to reassure him that all mysteries will be revealed in good time. Both are distinct characters, and the reader does learn much more about them both as the pages steadily turn. As the novel progresses, Pell's character develops pleasingly.
From Human to Wraeththu
The concept of the Wraeththu is interesting. Apparently, only young males can be turned from human to Wraeththu, and only the beautiful ones are chosen. To become Wraeththu is not merely initiation into the latest fashionable youth sub-culture. It is a process of evolution, which endows greater intelligence, physical stamina, sensitivity and longevity than that of a human.
The book's concept is quite singular and engaging. On the one hand it follows the tradition of quest tales, on the other it introduces a fresh and lively fantasy world of magic and mystery. A solid plot throughout, written at a good pace, it weaves in elements of metaphysics without labouring these too much.
Each chapter begins with a lovely bold yet simple linear illustration by someone named only as Ruby in the front matter, which also informs us that this novel was first published in 1987.
Mine is the revised 2003 edition, which has extra material added and some of the original chapters have been re-written. As I am unfamiliar with the original version, I can't offer any comparison between the two editions. What I can tell you is that I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series, which is already in my mountainous To Read pile.
What's Not to Like?
I have the 2003 edition of The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, and one problem for me was the very small size of the text. The font itself is Papyrus which, while not a standard choice for books, is decorative and adds to an artistic aesthetic in fitting with advanced Wraeththu culture, such as that found within the city of Immanion. However, the font was so small that I had to struggle to read it. If I hadn't been so engaged by the story I would probably have abandoned the novel for this reason alone.
Maybe your eyes are stronger than mine.
Fan video inspired by the Wraeththu Mythos
The bibliographical and biographical information in this article came from:
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© 2019 Adele Cosgrove-Bray