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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Southern Fantasy

The universal theme of good versus evil is the primary premise of Shadow of the Conjurer, by Steve Geirhart, his first, just released self-published venture into the world of gothic historical novels. The subtitle describes this imaginative tale set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northern Alabama as a “…gothic supernatural fantasy of love and redemption” in which the antebellum south “intersects the present”. The junction of the past and present is the homestead of Jacob and Melissa McNally, whose house and barn are built upon what was once part of a large cotton plantation.

The McNally’s are struggling to save their childless marriage, although both are unwilling to talk to the other about their problems. He is volatile, aloof, and stubborn, burying his hurt and anger in building and flying remote-controlled model airplanes. She lashes out at her “selfish and unfeeling” husband by retreating to their barn to curry her favored horses and by having a secret affair with Jared’s bitter enemy to satisfy her emptiness. During an attempt at reconciliation, they walk around their property, stopping to explore the old slave cemetery where Conner, their middle-aged Golden Retriever, digs up and is stabbed by a strange looking thorn. Almost immediately, strange and scary things begin to happen.

When the couple discovers the 1830s journal of Jacob Thompson that describes his abhorrence of slavery and his deep love for Nika—a young Mandingo girl captured by slave traders in Africa and sold to his father—the story explodes into a fantasy-laden, supernatural saga that includes weird and seemingly inexplicable events, uncontrollable desires, demonic possession, and excursions into ancient African spirit worlds. Geirhart’s vivid imagination, based upon his research of Mandingo legends, is evident in uniquely pronounced and adjective-heavy descriptions of fierce “good versus evil” battles fought not only between humans in both the 19th and 21st centuries but amongst ephemeral, immortal beings on other-worldly planes and dimensions.

This is an intriguing story, switching between the 1830s and the present, and travelling into other realms. Geirhart’s protagonists are plausible, especially Jared and Melissa. However, some 1830s’ events and interactions seem a bit far-fetched, with a few jarring anomalies. The writing style is generally lucid and fast-paced, especially in the present-day passages. In some parts, however, it was stiff and formal, with contrived phrases and awkward verb usage. The unnecessary character lists and “spoiler” comments between sections also detracted from enjoying an uninterrupted fictional flow of this inventive novel.

Despite its flaws, however, Shadow of The Conjurer: The Antebellum South Intersects the Present in a Gothic Supernatural Fantasy of Love and Redemption is a decent, enjoyable, and inspired read; especially for someone who is into gothic fantasy and historical romances.

12:57 pm edt          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,