Synopses & Reviews
In his first novel, the national bestseller The Book of Shadows
, James Reese beguiled readers with a boldly imaginative, darkly erotic tale of awakening that introduced the captivating and deeply unusual Herculine. Now this extraordinary writer continues Herculine's incredible journey of self-discovery a search that will lead her into a world of shadows and perils, where she will taste the forbidden and find redemption.
September 1826. Taught to trust...and to learn by a quartet of remarkable saviors, Herculine is bound for America, leaving behind a strange and violent past in France for an uncertain future in an exotic new land. Arriving in Virginia, Herculine is led by fate to Mother-of-Venus, a mysterious old slave woman who is blessed with gifts both terrifying and strange, and to a young poet named Edgar Poe who is haunted by evils of the past. Under the mystical guidance of Mammy Venus, Herculine soon calls upon her powerful legacy to rescue Celia, a beautiful, damaged slave. Landing in the coastal wilds of Florida, Celia stirs passions and dark, otherworldly powers within Herculine, propelling them into an erotic obsession that only the missing witch Sebastiana d'Azur can break.
Hope comes in a missive that will lure the desperate Herculine north, to the chaotic streets of New York and a strange, magical house in which the confused and eager witch is accepted by a band of like-minded sisters and introduced to exquisite carnal pleasures. Finally loosed from the shackles of shame and desire, Herculine heads south once again to find salvation and fulfill her destiny.
Set in a time of promise and peril, bondage and bloodshed, James Reese's lush, richly atmospheric, and beautifully told tale shatters the boundaries between the living and the dead, the magical and the ordinary, the imagined and the historical. A novel of the mind and the senses, The Book of Spirits is a mesmerizing and unforgettable work from an exceptional talent.
"French witch Herculine travels to America in this second book of historical horror from Reese, who here builds unevenly on The Book of Shadows. At sea, Herculine falls in love with Celia, the slave of a cruel and sexually-abusive master. Rescuing Celia requires the help of noted witch Mammy Venus, whose coterie includes a young Edgar Allan Poe. Herculine (who is both psychologically and physiologically androgynous and disguised as a man) and Celia flee to half-wild Florida. But then Herculine hears that her mentor, Sebastiani, has arrived in New York. When she returns there, all she finds are a few books waiting in a high-class whorehouse called Cyprian House, where the sexual possibilities of being an androgynous witch are explored at great length. Then it's back to Florida to rescue Celia, who is alone because Mammy Venus has been killed in Nat Turner's rebellion-except that Cecile has run off to be among the Seminole, who are about to go to war with the United States. The author's research in this compelling sequel seems to have been thorough, as the many varied settings and particulars of the time period are vividly portrayed, but Reese's constant jumping from one situation to another may try readers' patience." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n involving, richly detailed chronicle of witchcraft....Part historical fiction, part supernatural tale, this is difficult to put down and will surely delight fans of Reese's first novel as well as convert new readers to his fascinating style." Booklist (Starred Review)
"James Reeses startling second novel is filled with magic and heartbreak....It is a sumptuous feast for the senses." Eric Van Lustbader, New York Times bestselling author
In this richly textured sequel to his acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Book of Shadows, James Reese continues the epic, erotic tale of the witch Herculine, who has fled France and begins a search in America for her beloved, her true self, and, ultimately, her salvation.
About the Author
James Reese has held various jobs in the nonprofit sector, working on behalf of the arts and the environment. He is the author of The Book of Shadows and lives in Tampa, Florida.