In "Season of the Witch", Natasha Mostert writes a satisfying intellectual novel that entertains the reader on multi-levels. Combining a knowledge of computer technology, the occult and psychology, she weaves a story that teases the "seeker" in all of us while transforming a could-have-been mundane tale of two erotic witches and their boy-toys into an interesting peek at the age-old quest for ultimate gnosis.
Mostert's characters are ripe with the usual heroic attributes: good looks, charisma, and extraordinary sensory skills. Accomplished and hubristic, Gabriel, the lead player, makes his living as an information thief. Prowling the streets of London like a modern day Artful Dodger, he pick-pockets bits and bytes of cyberspace with wireless devices and sells them off to the highest corporate bidders. As a one-time "remote viewer" (a natural talent that enables one to "see" with the mind of another) he is contacted by Frankie, his former lover, to "slam a ride" into the mind of Robbie, her missing stepson, to discover his whereabouts. Minnaloushe and Morrighan Monk, two sisters that Gabriel senses during his ride, are not only beautiful and brilliant; they have developed an intricate memory palace (shades of Hannibal Lector) where they can hone their arcane skills as solar witches. Together, the three forge a fascinating trio; all are willing to give their all to maximize their innate skills while feeding their private desires.
From the start, Gabriel knows that one of the beautiful Monks has done away with Frankie's stepson. However, he finds that he is in love with the unknown writer of a highly imaginative digital diary that he is able to clandestinely glimpse at using his skills as a computer hacker. As with all heroes, Gabriel's focus shifts from his completing his mission to his fulfilling his personal wishes. And as most stories go, his weakness causes great inimitable pain. Like any coming of age journey, a trial by fire ensues, eventually tempering Gabriel's arrogance and allowing him to pursue the ultimate truth.
Although the plotline moves along at just the right pace and the conclusion is both compelling and satisfying, I found the beauty of this novel to lie in the information that Mostert so lovingly introduces to the reader. The complicated ideas of gnosis, alchemy and memory palaces tantalize; I, for one, will look into Mostert's recommendation to read "The Art of Memory" by Yates and "The Zelator" by Mark Hedsel. In addition, her comments regarding modern man's inability to internalize knowledge because of the accessibility of data via the Internet and other formats fascinate. Understanding that without a trained memory with "muscle," the truly inspired creative ideas that lead to a greater understanding of the universe will never conceptualize (one cannot link concepts together if they have been forgotten and not residing in memory), Mostert predicts a dire destiny for mankind in terms of its overall progression.
Bottom line? In terms of plot, I have subtracted one star for Mostert's rather obvious red herring device to steer the reader away from uncovering the identity of the actual murderess. Otherwise, I found this modern tale of witchcraft and seeking stimulating. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes something reminiscent of Elizabeth Hand's cult classic, "Waking the Moon." The melding of the ancient mysteries with the magic of today's technology entertains well, providing for a ride that slams as well as jams.
Diana Faillace Von Behren