A friend insisted that I read this — “it’s about Gargamel from The Smurfs, about what happens after he catches all the Smurfs and turns them into gold, but she makes it… beautiful and terrible and true.”
“Buh wuh?” I said intelligently.
(I have heard of The Smurfs, but only just, and before this encounter, I could not have summoned up even enough knowledge to fake convincingly, as I can with a lot of other pop culture from before I went to college.)
“Just read it, it’s really good.”
So I read it, and it was really good.
The eigenvectors of the story remain, but no longer is it just a cartoon tale of a black-clad villain’s incessant but impossible quest to destroy the heroes. The book’s center is a magician, one Montechristien Groeneveldt, who as a younger man was once upon a time a hunter of the blue essentials, spirits of intention. Ultimately he captured them all and refined them into the alchemic gold, which has given him incredible power. Now he has seven children by his now-dead wife (who died giving birth to the last), and he is trying to raise them with some success, and ultimately bequeath to them his power. It’s a book about dysfunctional families, and the price of obsession, and the myths we make for ourselves, and a lot of other beautiful and terrible things. It takes the source material and first makes it mythic and then makes it personal — and doing either one is a rare feat, but doing both is damned near impossible.
One thing I especially admire of the book is the author’s deft hand with humor. She strikes a rare balance of approaching heavy topics lightly without making light of them, and even in the slapstick moments where it nods to its source material, I found those moments didn’t break the magic circle and throw me out of the story, but added to the gestalt the story was building, and drew me deeper in.
[An Unclean Legacy, by Jenna Katerin Moran, at Amazon]