As Patricia Kennealy-Morrison will tell anyone who listens, she once was briefly wed to Doors frontman Jim Morrison. But she rewrites her own love life in "Blackmantle," a messy and rather dizzying fantasy novel, which is too vengeful and wild to be enjoyable in its own right.
Imagine her autobiography "Strange Days," but with a lot more murder.
Athyn was born on a battlefield to a dying mystery woman, and was brought back home as a foundling by one of the surviving warriors. Years later, she is cast out of her family's home by her cruel foster brother, and goes on to become a legendary brehon. Then she discovers the shocking truth -- she is actually the hereditary queen of Keltia.
During this time, she also falls in love with famed bard Morric Douglass. Eventually the two are married, as Athyn drives out the Firvolgi invaders. But the beautiful junkie Amzalsunëa is still obsessed with Morric, and poisons him when he comes to comfort her. Now Athyn goes on a rampage against anyone who wronged Morric -- and then goes into the underworld itself, to challenge the god of death.
At first glance, "Blackmantle" sounds like a sci-fi version of the Orpheus legend. But it becomes clear after a short time that this is a therapy session put to paper, where Kennealy-Morrison can get revenge on all the people in her life who have ticked her off, then live happily ever after with an idealized, faithful Morrison. It gets a little stomach-turning, in more than one way.
It certainly doesn't help that Athyn -- Kennealy-Morrison's glorified alter ego -- is such a nasty person. At one point, she skins and debones several men for trivial slights; she also hunts down and beheads Morric's ex-girlfriend, who is a parodic copy of Morrison's longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson. Not to mention the brutal racism toward the Incomers, whose sole flaw seems to be that they are not Kelts. By the last third of the book, it's hard not to wish that a meteor would crush Athyn.
Kennealy-Morrison has an admittedly pretty style, with plenty of description and some truly interesting scene, particularly her vision of the Underworld. It does get a bit exaggerated in its faux-Celtic (faux-Keltic?) atmosphere at times. Unfortunately, it's bogged down by too much talking from Athyn, too much adoration of the plastic Morric, and too much sneering at the absurd parody of Courson.
Reality and fantasy collide with a nasty splat in "Blackmantle." In the end, it seems merely like a way for Kennealy-Morrison to get back at Courson and the Doors in fiction, as she could not do in life.