Ravenwood Stepson of Mystery: Return of the Dugpa (Volume 3) (Paperback)
Reviewer James Bojaciuk
Author Micah S. Harris
Publisher Airship 27 (14 June 2015)
Price £11.07 (paperback) £3.21 (Kindle) on Amazon UK at time of posting.
Note: This review contains minor spoilers. But unless you’re up to date on your occult readings, most of them will be as meaningful as a sneeze.
Conspiracy is the wheelhouse of great thought
Between hours of physics and gravity, Newton studied his own amalgamation of prophecy and astrology, with one eye always focused on the end of the world. Nikola Tesla imagined Mars had long been in secret contact with Earth. On the flip side of the genius coin, William Blake imagined his own gods existing inside their own conspiracies which may or may not have influenced his own world through his visions.
It doesn’t matter if it’s true. What matters is that conspiracy forces us to think laterally, to build connections out of nothing but footnotes, cast-off sentences, and dust. As conspiracy trains our minds to think in unlikely ways, like a fourth-dimensional puzzle, we can attain greatness. Or, at least, that’s what we like to tell ourselves when we find ourselves trawling Illuminati websites at three in the bloody morning. Newton, Tesla, and Blake give us reason to hope. To hope that we can see the visions they saw, and build toward a better world. And, in his own way, so does Micah Harris.
In Ravenwood, Stepson of Mystery: Return of the Dugpa, Micah Harris does not merely present us with a conspiracy–he confronts us with a half-dozen conspiracies, all intertwined with the secret history of the world. Never mind that it’s fictional. We shouldn’t think Newton’s astrology was real, but it trained his mind with impossible puzzles all the same.
In 166 pages (169 if you count the appendix) we are faced with the lost opera of Wagner, Arthurian legend, Enoch and the nephilim, Crowley and his organizations, the murder of William Desmond Tyler, the history of black magic, the White Lodge and the Black, God’s first temple upon the earth, mummys’ curses (but not in the way you’d think), Egyptian symbolic magic, proto-Vikings, the old gods, the new gods of the pulps, and King Kong. Each thread is tied neatly into the others. So neatly that, looking at this list, I’m astounded Harris handled it smoothly. Each piece of the puzzle feels as though it naturally belongs, and that to lose it would be to rip away the chunk of the tapestry.
This was already one of the strengths of his prior novel, The Eldritch New Adventures of Becky Sharp. He has refined that sense, and that ability, until the joins between his sources become seamless.
Return of the Dugpa is a fourth-dimensional puzzle. Before I say what I say, keep in mind one thing: this is a complete novel, whole in and of itself. You need no prior knowledge of any of Harris’ sources, or any of Harris’ other work to enjoy it. But one of the most gleeful things about this novel is that not all the clues are contained herein. Even Ravenwood lacks all the clues. But you can begin to clue yourself in on the world by reading Harris’ other fictions, ands seeing how this one novel is only one sequence in his own Bayeux Tapestry.
What worked for the geniuses might work for you. Harris’ novel could be the path to genius. If it isn’t, don’t blame me, I only write the reviews.
By now you’re probably sick and tired of allusions, secret histories, and talk of mind-expanding mysteries. So let’s talk about the novel itself.
Ravenwood, the Ancient One, Anne D’Arromanches, and the rest are joys to be around. Large sections of the novel are simply conversation, and they carry it with aplomb. Like the silent stars before you, don’t be afraid of the talkies.
The description is well-handled and well-described. It has an easy flow. The action, when it comes, comes in force. It’s a very good novel, and well worth your time and money.
Any complaints I have are narrowed around the last few pages. I felt the climax needed some focus, Arneau and his Dark Eminence needed a touch more resolution (at least as much as copyright would allow), Anne’s sudden turn-around on Arneau needed a somewhat slower simmer, and that things were a little too open at the end. But if it leads to Harris writing a sequel, I can’t find grounds to complain. Moreover, the through-line of the novel, Ravenwood’s relationship with the Nameless One, is well-developed and comes to a head in the climax. What mattered most was covered, and covered very well.
If you’re allergic to flashbacks, much of the middle-third of the novel is an extended look at the early history of the world. I’d normally take points off for that, but it was handled so well that I enjoyed it. If that turns you off, turn away now and forever hold your peace.
Overall, it’s one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read this year. Grab your copy soon.
Airship 27 continues to knock it out of the park, to say nothing of Micah Harris.
Reviewers note: I was sent a review copy in turn for a fair review.
Artwork reproduced courtesy Airship 27.