Author: David Dalessandro
Release Date: Available Now
Reviewer: Maria Josey
Anathema is a novel by David Dalessandro that truly combines multiple genres. Some may identify it as a horror novel. Others may claim it to be historical fiction. And yet some readers will insist it is science fiction. But wherever it may be shelved, Anathema is a deliciously Gothic tale that is engrossing in every way. Set in the mid-1800s, the small whaling community on Nantucket Island has found a body washed ashore, presumably of a fisherman. When the local coroner finds something remarkably unusual about the body, he sends word to Dr. Josiah Redfern for assistance in identifying the cause of death. Unable to make the trip, a fastidious young medical assistant named Balthazar Andrews embarks on the trip from Boston to Nantucket Island on behalf of his mentor, Dr. Redfern. The naïve Mr. Andrews soon finds himself in the middle of a horrific and bizarre set of circumstances that his sheltered life leaves him little prepared for. Upon reaching the island, he meets Abigail and Prudence Mott – a mother and daughter of great beauty and intellect, who have been left abandoned in their lovely home by the mysterious absence of Mr. Mott. Balthazar lodges with the Mott women, and befriends Prudence who has a keen wit and a sharp mind. On a midnight ride, Balthazar and Prudence stumble across a shipwreck, forever changing their world.
The most appreciated aspect of the novel is the perfectly Victorian Gothic tone that the author manages to maintain and portray quite convincingly. While the story certainly revolves around a mystery that encompasses a dark evil, the overall narration remains light enough to be entertaining and endearing. The novel is reminiscent of both Jules Verne and Bram Stoker. The storyline moves along at a steady pace, and the vintage appeal of 19th century Nantucket with its rich whaling background lends a beautifully compelling historical appeal to the book. The author does a superb job with dialogue, finding just the right mix of narrative to move the story along with character depth and subject research. It’s complex enough to appeal to the die-hard science fiction or horror fan, yet it also undoubtedly holds some cross-over appeal to historical fiction readers and even young adult enthusiasts. The scenery is rich, the plot unique and intriguing, and mysterious twists and turns are page-turning – even an ambivalent reader would have a difficult time not hurriedly turning the pages to find out what happens next. Will Mr. Andrews bravely find the wherewithal to solve the mystery and protect the people of Nantucket from the evil that awaits them, or will his inexperience and timid demeanor result in his demise? Travel back in time to historic Nantucket and join Mr. Andrews and the other locals as they discover the existence of the malevolent, unearthly Anathema.