Volume Two of Roz Kaveney’s Rhapsody of Blood series starts with Emma and Caroline at one of Morgan’s magic community parties. If you are looking for more of this delightful lesbian couple, however, you may be a little disappointed. Much of this volume follows Mara the Huntress in her journey through history, seeking out the evil and ambitious and putting a stop to them before they can become gods. The book is devoted largely to the 18th Century, and two of the star characters are Isaac Newton and Robespierre.
The book is called Reflections, and this is perhaps a nudge to the reader to think more about what Roz is doing with the story arc. Sure, Emma and Caroline hunting down magical bad guys in contemporary London is fun. We all like a little Buffy. Also Roz takes the opportunity to skewer odious religious fundamentalist media personalities, which is always worth doing. Mara, however, has more serious business to attend to.
The point of the Rituals of Blood is that if you have a big enough idea, and enough political power, and you use these to kill sufficient people, then you will become a God. Newton dabbles in alchemy and has ambitions, but his ideas, while brilliant, aren’t anywhere near horrible enough to make a success of godhood. Robespierre and his sidekick, Saint-Just, are another matter entirely. They have no difficulty in providing an adequate sacrifice. Thankfully they are not smart enough to take advantage of the sorcerous bounty that their revolution has generated.
Along the way we get to meet a bunch of interesting characters, some real and some invented. Voltaire proves useful to Mara in her dealings with Newton. Edward Gibbon pops up as a ghost. Mary Wollstonecraft plays a small but significant role in the narrative. And I was delighted to see a major part reserved for the redoubtable Georgiana Cavendish. The star of the show, however, is Polly Wild, the invented (I presume) daughter of the notorious London underworld figure, Jonathan Wild. A great deal of fun with history is had.
As I was reading the book, it occurred to me that many of these people could be characterized as Mara’s “companions” in her adventures. The Huntress doesn’t exactly travel through time, she lives through it, but along the way she does a great deal of righting of wrongs. If ever the BBC relents and allows The Doctor to re-incarnate as a woman, I would love to see Roz given a go at the scripts.
If there is a moral to the series (and I suspect that there is) then it is that power corrupts, and those who seek godhood never deserve it. A particularly sad character is Sophia, the Goddess of Wisdom, who has been driven mad by men’s demands upon her. As Roz points out, if you are rational and wise, becoming a goddess should be very far from your bucket list. Wisdom, ambition and egomania just don’t go together.
However, there is a plot to the series as well. Jehovah, that wily chancer who actually made it to godhood (he’s fond of smiting, remember), is key to it. So are Emma and Caroline. And doubtless so is Morgan, who is becoming scarily more like me all the time. This volume ends thoroughly in media res.
Book 3, Roz, where the heck is book 3?
For more information about Roz Kaveney, see the SF Encyclopedia.
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