Psychonaut: A Fairy Tale of Inner Wastelands
Last year one of our Gothic Council contributors, Carmilla Voiez, released an absolutely intense novel of demons, rape and murder called Starblood. It was the sort of thing Clive Barker might have penned if he were a woman, and just reading the thing was like feeling surgery begin just as the anesthetic takes effect. Beautiful, brilliant, bloody piece of work, and damn unnerving.
Now, Voiez is back with the second part of the planned trilogy, Psychonaut. The book is a tremendous departure from Starblood, dealing mostly with an internal journey through the worlds of magic and loss. What it loses in visceral gutshots, though, it gains in enlightenment.
When last we left her world, the young goth magician Satori had finished burying his estranged lover Star, who he had accidentally led into a relationship with the demon queen Lilith. Lilith overpowered both Star and Satori, and used them both to impregnate Star with a three-way child. The act drove Star to kill herself. Having returned home, Satori now faces the suspicions of the police in the murder of Star, as well as a quest through the spiritual planes in order to hopefully retrieve her from beyond death.
Starblood, to be blunt, was in large part a rape analogy. The idea of dominance through sex, of using intercourse as an attack and coupling to manipulate people against their will permeated nearly every page. That was the genius of it that helped Voiez overcome some of her first-novel jitters. No matter how many eye-rollingly modern goth tropes she occasionally overused, at its heart the book grabbed a reader by the throat and forced you to stare at the damage done when sex becomes your weapon of choice.
That was hard even before we here in America got to spend the last year listening to politicians crap through their mouths on the subject of rape. Now, it's almost unbearable.
Psychonaut initially holds onto that brutal style, but shifts quickly into territory that is new and very exciting. The story of Psychonaut is similar to Stephen King and Peter Straub's The Talisman in that the primary progression is our hero traveling through dual worlds at the same time.
Satori resembles Jack Sawyer in many ways. Both are extraordinarily gifted males in search of the key to a woman's salvation. Sawyer seeks a magical artifact to save his mother, who is a queen in the other world, while Satori wants to rescue Star, who is also more than she appears.