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Dr. Sabian Blake --- astronomer, doctor, scientist, and Cabala master --- has been mysteriously presented with the legendary Book of Nemorensis. As he pores over the tome, Blake learns that an enormous star called Wormwood will hit earth, causing many deaths in London. Blake is calculating the hour of this universe-altering event when an ominous portent occurs: the stars vanish, the sun rises and sets repeatedly, a great comet appears while pandemonium erupts on earth, and then dawn rises at midnight.

Blake saves his friend Bonham from a pack of killer dogs. He confides in Bonham that a new age is dawning, and that there will be the star Wormwood to lead the way. The approaching comet will either pass the earth --- or destroy it. The conversation is overhead by Blake's young maid, Agetta.

Agetta, on her way home to her family's dreary lodging house, is waylaid by a sinister woman who insists they meet at midnight. At home a man named Sarapuk tells Agetta's father, Cadmus, that he is experimenting on people in an attempt to capture human souls. Cadmus says his jailer friend may be able to provide humans for Sarapuk's experiments. Meanwhile, Agetta puzzles over other mysterious guests, such as Manpurdi (who bears stigmata) and a hidden, winged creature chained in the attic.

At Agetta's midnight meeting Yerzinia, a woman in a tiger mask, appears. She invites Agetta to join her in a luxurious life. Yerzinia also marks Agetta by burning her palm, a wound that continues to burn with fire long after Agetta's return home where her father is showing Sarapuk the celestial being in the attic, who he hopes to profit from by displaying in a freak show.

Meanwhile, Blake discovers the Nemorensis has acquired new pages that speak of earth's destruction and a new power arriving on earth. Agetta learns that others are seeking Blake's magical book: the bookseller Thaddeus and a mysterious stranger. She frees Tegatus, the angel in the attic, and joins forces with him. Can Earth be saved?

As much as I wanted to enjoy WORMWOOD for its imaginative premise, I found the plot to be chaotic and fragmented by an enormous cast of undeveloped characters, which include evil humans, supernatural beings, and ghosts. Since the story is told from multiple points of view, it's hard to feel invested in any one character, particularly since character motivation is frequently unclear (for example, why does Blake do the bidding of obviously evil Hezrin?). In fact, every character is unlikable, so it's difficult to feel sympathy toward any of them.

However, fans of G. P. Taylor's debut novel SHADOWMANCER may enjoy the premise and the author's ornate descriptions of eighteenth century London.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on September 9, 2004

by G. P. Taylor

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2004
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam
  • ISBN-10: 0399242570
  • ISBN-13: 9780399242571