by Sharon Tucker
& Jeri Westerson
This week we have another book perfect for your Halloween reading, Clockwork Gypsy by Jeri Westerson. We also have a Halloween guest post from Jeri. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of the book, and a link to purchase it.
Clockwork Gypsy by Jeri Westerson
Review by Sharon Tucker
The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. —W. B. Yeats
I grew fond of Leopold Kazmer, The Great Enchanter, in his first adventure, The Daemon Device (2019), where he battled the encroaching demonic takeover of steampunk Victorian London and won. Of course, he had help, both natural and supernatural, and I hoped that all his cohorts and a few more would return when I learned the second in Jeri Westerson’s Enchanter Chronicles was coming. Little is certain as Clockwork Gypsy (2020) begins. Kazmer, still reverberating with the magic performed in his evening show, heads out into a pea souper of a fog. He’s uneasy; the wrist tattoos that make his spells possible have burned an alert, but as he prepares to defend himself exiting the stage door…Nothing is there.
The plot gains momentum as we re-encounter the adept Special Inspector Mingli Zhao, who I’m glad to say, has come to enlist Kazmer’s talents to investigate the building of a strange railway across England and Scotland as well as much distress among magical creatures—here note Kazmer’s skepticism regarding their existence which surprised me, considering his profession. I’m glad to say we do meet again the cast of the previous novel with the hoped-for additions of other beings and creatures that bring a new urgency with them as well as their perils. Daemon Eurynomos, Prince of Death, is back. He is helpful as ever and has returned with an increased taste for blood but as obliging and civilized as ever, too. Raj, the Tarot reading automaton, comes back and is a favorite as is Inspector Despenser Thacker, rather newly dead and returning as a ghost. It was fun even to see the surly/servile imp Suchah who is useful despite himself. But among the new characters we meet is a malevolent partly mechanized Romani out for Kazmer’s blood.
I think Kazmer intrigues us because he is such a creature of contrasts. Although he daily faces down supernatural creatures, he is shy with Inspector Mingli. He is in thrall to Eurynomos not only for help with his magic but also for the ultimate purpose of finding his father trapped in the netherworld, all the while knowing he will have a grievous price to pay some day for that help. Courage indeed. The rest of the characters who people this adventure have complex, tragic backgrounds as well. But then we know that magic does not come from a happy place—remember what we learned in SyFy’s The Magicians.
These are highly entertaining novels, this second just as much fun as its predecessor, and I look forward to more adventures and fascinating characters in the novels to come.
By Jeri Westerson
People have liked dressing up as various creatures of imagination for a long time, either partly in fear of them, or to appease them. Halloween has its roots in the ancient, pre-Christian Gaelic festival of Samhain (pronounced SAA-wn), which was celebrated on the night of October 31. The Gaelic people—who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France—believed that the dead returned to earth on Samhain. People would gather to light bonfires, offer sacrifices, and pay homage to the dead.
During some Gaelic celebrations of Samhain, villagers disguised themselves in costumes made of animal skins to scare away unwanted ghostly visitors. In later centuries, people began dressing up as ghosts and devils, and in exchange for food and drink, they’d romp about, entertaining the crowds. This custom was called “mumming,” and dates back to the Middle Ages, a precursor of trick-or-treating.
In later centuries, in Scotland and Ireland, young people took part in a tradition called “guising,” dressing up in costume and going from house to house to receive a bribe of fruit, nuts, or even coins to perform some kind of “trick”—singing, reciting a poem, or something else—replacing the earlier custom of mumming, which later morphed into the “trick-or-treating” we do in the United States.
One of the other symbols of this time is the Devil, or any old demon will do. After all, all sorts of hobgoblins were afoot after dark, doing their mischief, souring the milk, tangling our hair while we slept.
And then, of course, because we are talking about All Hallows Eve, or Hallowed (Holy) Evening and referring to the dead, whose spirit finds it a pleasant time to go wandering, there is the image of the ghost and the skeleton.
Perhaps it was demons who enthralled me the most. Here is a picture of my five-year-old self who favored dressing up for Halloween—for years—as the Devil (and those who knew me when, tell me it was apt).
So it’s an easy leap in my latest gas-lamp fantasy/steampunk novel, Clockwork Gypsy (releasing on Halloween), that I have demons play an important role. Only this time it’s “daemons”—the helpful kind as opposed to “demons,” the decidedly unhelpful kind. My Jewish/Romani magician, Leopold Kazsmer, the Great Enchanter, finds himself mixed up in supernatural crimes he often helps Scotland Yard to solve, using the dangerous art of summoning Jewish daemons to perform real magic.
I have plucked my own version of daemons and demons from the rich tapestry of lore about the supernatural. The lore starts, naturally enough, in Genesis, though you have to go to the Talmud—a compendium of essays and arguments about what every part of the Old Testament means—that explains the emergence of demons and tries to argue that God could not have created such evil.
The Talmud describes that demons were created at the twilight of the sixth day and put the blame on the sin of Adam and Eve. Other traditions blame it on fallen angels or the offspring of humans and fallen angels. Still other traditions put the blame on Lilith (the real first woman rejected by Adam—he seems picky for the only guy on the planet) and Lilith then uses sex with other men (where did they come from?) to produce demons.
Now these demon fellows wreak havoc and plague humans with all sorts of evil, from simple temptations to complicated and unpleasant shenanigans, including possessing the body.
But the daemons I concentrate on for my fictional purposes come from the Greek idea of benevolent nature spirits. They are lesser deities or even a guiding spirit. It is the Latinized form for the Ancient Greek and Indo-European word “daimon,” meaning “godlike.” You can see how this sort of creature pitted against the Judeo-Christian nemesis can make for interesting drama. And an interesting take for one’s own lore.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Clockwork Gypsy, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “clockwork,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 31, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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