G.P. Taylor struck out with his much-hyped debut, the tepid religious fantasy "Shadowmancer." And the follow-up, "Wormwood," is even less engaging than "Shadowmancer" was -- while it's fairly well written, it's loosely strung together with dull characters and a plodding plot.
In the mid 1700s, London is gripped by panic -- somehow the earth is overspinning, and suddenly stops so that London is plunged into permanent night. A young servant girl, Agetta, is terrified of what is going to happen, especially because her master, Kabbalah master and scientist Dr Sabian Blake, is predicting that a comet called Wormwood will strike the earth.
This information comes from the mysterious book, Nemorensis, that Blake was given by a stranger. The Nemorensis supposedly contains all the secrets of the universe. Unfortunately, the book also exerts a sinister influence over Agetta. But in an attic is Tegatus, an angelic being who might just be the savior London needs...
Religious fantasy, or fantasy with religious undertones, is not a bad thing -- J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others allowed their religions to influence their life's work. But G.P. Taylor not only has the subtlety of a battering ram -- he's also quite boring. The story plods along in a string of little plot-related scenes, without building up much momentum.
One of the biggest problems is the way Taylor handles the fantastical elements of his book. Okay, there are weird creatures. Most fantasy books have those. But his seem to just be thrown into the mix for no apparent reason. His handling of superstition and science in the 1700s is sketchy at best, no matter how brilliant a scientist Blake is meant to be.
Taylor has a decent enough writing style, and he has a certain flair for description and atmosphere. But his style is also very repetitive and over-the-top -- where are the editors when you need them? What's worse, his idea of creating a fantasy world seems to be to just toss in a few weird elements that have nothing to do with the plot. The actual fantasy plot is just more of Taylor's lukewarm, generic Christian sentiments.
The characters are as thin as the pages. There are a lot of characters for a relatively slim fantasy book, and many of them are left underdeveloped. Blake and Agetta are the only ones who receive any character development, and that isn't saying much. Agetta in particular seems almost manic, considering how fast her moods swing. Tegatus is just freakin' boring.
G.P. Taylor strikes out again with "Wormwood," another dull religious fantasy that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Boring, messy, and not worth the effort it takes to wade through.