Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Poison of a Smile
“This is my voice. You cannot hear me, but I hope you will read my thoughts.” So begins Steven Jensen’s novella, set in late 19th century Wales. The voice belongs to Alatiel, the sinister, ghostly woman who appears in many guises throughout Steven Jensen’s novel, soon to be published by the UK’s Night Publishing.
Appealing, compelling and ghastly, “Alatiel” is a succubus, an evil spirit who destroys everyone she touches, changing guises as she goes. The men she is involved with, enchanted by her airy beauty, sleepwalk through their relationship with her as she sucks them dry and dismissively casts them aside, destroying them.
Though I didn’t especially like this novel (I don’t usually read ghost stories set in the late 1800s), it is well-written and compelling. After reading it this morning I fell asleep and woke up an hour or so later from a dream in which I had come home looking forward to seeing my wife, but couldn’t find her. I went through each room, all empty but the bedroom, which was empty except for a large black tarpaulin thrown over the bed. Was that my wife lying under it? At that moment I woke from the dream and got up. “Like” the novel or not, my dream shows me that Steven Jensen tells a story in a way that pulls you into it even when you may not want to go.
My only critical comments is that it would benefit from being two or three times as long. Around seventy pages for a tale like this is a bit too short, especially when Part Two – Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey – is scheduled for publication in 2011. Seventy pages seems a “teaser” for what comes next … and that, I think, is too bad.
But if you’re looking for a little chiller of a tale, The Poison of a Smile is a good one. And if Alatiel appears somewhere in your dreams, don’t be surprised.