On the Nature of Magic

Titan. May 2023. 416p. ISBN 9781803361345. pap. $16.95. FANTASY
Detectives Helena Walton-Cisneros and Eliza Waltraud return in this sequel to Womack’s gothic novel The Golden Key. Set in 1902 London and Paris, the team takes on a pair of seemingly unconnected mysteries based on real events (the Moberly-Jourdain Incident): two English women visiting Versailles claim to have entered a time slip and seen Marie Antoinette, and a female dancer has disappeared from the set of Georges Méliès’s latest film. They also gain a new aide in their investigation, librarian Jocasta. With a continued focus on the debate over science versus magic, representatives of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Society for Psychical Research, and women mediums are all depicted, exploring the different ways occultism was experienced at the time. A plethora of characters, frequent jumps between episodes, feminist messages, women in hiding, grotesque descriptions of the dancers and spiritualist shows, and the double mysteries cause this to be a lot for the reader to take in.
VERDICT Fans of the first volume or patient readers who can accept a level of fogginess in their narrative may enjoy this one.
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