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Book Review: The Night Battles by M.F. Bloxam

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When I read The Night Battles, I almost believed that monsters were under my bed again. Psychologically awakening, this book will stimulate your neurons to that time long ago when we believed.

Joan Severance, an anthropology professor at Brown University has reached an impasse in her career with her future in academia tenuous. Granted a sabbatical. She accepts a position in Valparuta, Sicily, to work as an archivist with a fellow archivist, Signor Chiesa. She soon becomes engrossed unearthing historical records from the past.

Joan becomes attracted to Chiesa, and as their relationship deepens, it is through him she discovers the night battles. Valparuta is masked in a facade of deception both good and evil and Chiesa is caught up in the game. All the villagers are either benandanti (who fight the witches) or are malandanti (the witches), the workers of evil. After witnessing the leftover carnage from one of these night battles, Joan wonders why she is in Valparuta.

Para-normally eerie, this good versus evil theme repeats in the past and present. As the author shows, history is interconnected through the generations. Joan was taken away from this village by her father after her mother was killed trying to expose the mafia. Now, 25 years later, Joan is fighting the malandanti (the mafia) as well. Joan is an oddity, an intricate puzzle of psychological interest who will be remembered long after.

The author’s strength is in her beautiful poetic phrasing. For example: “Outside, the wind saws against the building like a train taking a curve." (103) And: “I miss him so terribly that it seems he must have only set like a moon, gone below a certain horizon. I still feel the pull of his body.” (238)

The Night Battles commands your attention with mesmerizing intrigue and alluring appeal. Cover to cover this novel is a thriller, tightly taut with tension. M.F. Bloxam writes this frightfully imaginative story with a razor sharp edge. Bloxam is a sensualist with an acute sensory awareness in her writing that delivers a static charge.

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