The Night Battlesby M.F. Bloxam
A brief note about the author from the jacket of the book:
M.F. Bloxam has lived in Sicily and on both US coasts. She is the author of prize-winning short fiction and creative non-fiction. A background in anthropology and museum work informs her writing. She lives with her husband and two cats on New Hampshire's seacoast. This is her first novel."
The Night Battles by M.F. Bloxam
The Permanent Press
Reading The Night Battles, evokes dark forgotten memories from the past when monsters lived under beds and in closets. Psychologically awakening this book will stimulate your neurons to that time long ago when fantasy fogged reality.
Joan Severance, an anthropology professor at Brown University has reached an impasse in her career, her future in academia tenuous. Granted a sabbatical, she accepts a position in Valparuta, Sicily, to work as an archivist under the tutelage of Signor Chiesa. She soon becomes engrossed in her work, unearthing historical records. She begins reading about Piero Quagliata his life and then his untimely, unnatural death in 1552. Abruptly the files she sifts through lead no where, something is missing.
Joan becomes attracted to Chiesa. As their relationship deepens, she comes to know his horror with the night battles. In Valpurata you are either benandanti or malandanti, the workers of evil. The benedanti spend four times a year battling the witches. One morning she witnesses the leftover carnage from one of these night battles. Joan senses her appearance in Sicily is not coincidental.
The thrill of The Night Battles is reading the book and imagining the fantasy. It is illusion, mystical, magical and personal to the reader. Valpurata becomes Joan's rabbit hole, with fantasy and reality obscured as she learns the history of Piero and his relationship with the benandanti.
The author’s strength is her beautiful poetic phrasing. For example:
“Outside, the wind saws against the building like a train taking a curve.(103)
“I miss him so terribly that it seems he must have only set like a moon, gone below a certain horizon. I still feel the pull of his body.” (238)
The Night Battles commands your attention with mesmerizing intrigue and alluring appeal. M. F. Bloxam's novel is distinctly unusual, a thriller, tightly taut with tension. Bloxam is a sensualist with an acute sensory awareness that makes this book live.
Thanks to The Permanent Press for the ARC of this novel.
This review was first published on Blogcritics.org