Thursday, 3 February 2022

King Satyr by Ron Weighell (Sarob 2021) - Review Part 2

I paused in my reading of this fascinating book to make a note of this remark by one key character:

"When Hegel called Giordano Bruno 'Bacchantic' he didn't mean it as a compliment."

This is not a conventional horror novel. The speaker is Aridela, a beautiful woman who becomes the lover and 'perfect Priestess' of Cyrus. The latter's quest to discover the truth about the long-vanished artist Gaunt takes him into the realm of a group of wealthy cultists, to which Aridela belongs. At first, it seems he has found his spiritual home. This is despite the fact that Cyrus is working-class and lacks formal education. But then the actual Bacchantic ritual of the Pan worshippers takes place, and things become rather unpleasant. Weighell handles the transition from erudite table talk to extreme violence with consummate skill.

Cyrus, appalled by what he has seen, breaks up with Aridela and returns to the grim round of dead-end jobs and solitary questing after arcane truths. Eventually, this takes him to a seaside town where he attempts to question Westfall, a sick old man who knows something of ritual magic. At first, Westfall seems harmless enough, but Cyrus soon comes to realise that he has strayed into a very dangerous presence. He makes the mistake of being too flippant with Westfall and suffers for it. Without going into details, our hero narrowly avoids falling victim to a very well-realised supernatural menace.


The book, and Cyrus' question, concludes in Wales, where he finds a vast archive and lots of occult paraphernalia. This was Gaunt's last refuge. Aridela reappears, strange transfiguration occur, and Cyrus finally attains his objective - in a sense. Time itself falls victim to the power of the satyrs and Cyrus, along with his beautiful mistress, finds himself in a world that he can truly live in. Ron Weighell also provided an Afterword, which makes for fascinating reading and confirms how deeply and widely read he was.

This is a challenging book in the good sense - it demands that you pay attention and try to grasp what a character is, as much as what they say and do. I was, as always, impressed by the sheer scale of the author's learning, but also felt a keen sense of kinship with Cyrus, who is ultimately a good man adrift in a world that seems hopelessly polluted by ignorance and greed. The grand finale of the story is optimistic, however, and the impression I think King Satyr will leave with me is one of freedom and joy, a sense of oneness with the green woods and the mountains.

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