Epeolatry Book Review: The Auguries
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Title: The Auguries
Author: F.G. Cottam
Genre: Occult Horror
Publisher: Severn House Digital
Release Date: 1 April 2019
Synopsis: An unexpected lunar eclipse. A poisonous fog that cripples the capital. Statues that weep blood.
As the catalogue of calamities mount, fear and paranoia provoke rumours of terrorist attacks. But from whom?
History professor Juliet Harrington is an authority on sixteenth-century mysticism and a long-time believer in the existence of the Almanac of Forbidden Wisdom, a potent spell-book legend insists was compiled in that period by a cabal of powerful occultists. Its magic is summoned though only at disastrous cost, signaled by The Auguries. Juliet is convinced that the recent plague of disasters means someone reckless is using the book – and she has little time left to stop them.
“Dawn Jackson frowned, (It’s) ‘The Auguries’, she said . . . It’s like fallout, a … contagion. It’s a phenomenon they called ‘the unrestful dead.’
I have read all of F.G. Cottam’s book – so I am a fan of his dark horror with its accompanying chills and creepy settings ranging from a haunted house to a haunted boat. His trilogy, The Colony, is in my opinion a peak piece of writing for Cottam and when I read the first Colony novel I could almost believe it was a true story with a bit of faction thrown in – it was grippingly realistic and set on an isolated island. I think claustrophobic settings might be part of the Cottam charm; when the walls close in you know there’s nowhere to go..
This latest novel from him is, I felt, rather different in scope, tone and even style. In The Auguries the whole of London is showing signs of entering the End Times :- statues weep blood, a poisonous fog descends, a plane falls from the sky, the city floods and the infrastructure breaks down with bloated bodies floating in the streets and the accompanying looting (only Crouch End remains barely touched- there is a reason for that). However of these staggeringly devastating events are somewhat skimmed over as though they are a list to get through, but then the entire novel is a compact 208 pages, and Cottam has a lot to fit in and he does set a terrific galloping pace. So on the plus side this story is speedily told, fun, action packed and cracks along. You could read it in one or two sittings.
However the choice of a teenager, Dawn Jackson, (harbinger of a New Dawn perhaps?)as the main antagonist who holds the ‘Almanac of Forbidden Wisdom’ (inherited from her looter great grandfather) doesn’t work for me. She may/may not be autistic (a comment which is repeated to lesser effect each time throughout the book) but as she ignites the ancient spells to gain her own desires – she seems more of a psychopath than anything else and a not very believable one at that. Perhaps it’s an attempt to attract the Y.A. horror market?
The creepy scenes in her basement where Dawn imprisons what was once her rather nice brother, Peter, one of the most likeable characters, work very well indeed. They are miniature gems of Cottam writing at his best and her weird reanimated grandfather sent chills through me; but the good guy adults – a rather two dimensional female Professor and her academic male colleague (with military training which comes in handy) chase around Europe as though in a speeded up caper movie, (if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium) following the clues to the sixteenth century Almanac and its origins and creators. There is much jumping back in time and changes of points of view. The sixteenth century magical almanac chapters are interesting enough but there is too much detail.
This leaping around is somewhat disjointing and there is a lot of it for a 200 page book; so there is not much chance to settle into one point of view or time period.
I would say this is for Cottam die hards and if you knew to his oeuvre, start with an earlier one.
The Auguries can be found on Amazon:
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Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.