Written by By Morven Westfield
Published by Harvest Shadows Publications, 2003
Alicia Anderson is a hardworking, underpaid, and often overlooked computer operator who works third shift at Theoretic. After a recent breakup during which her boyfriend tells her she’s too emotionless, and despite her best friend Susie’s attempts to get her out into the party scene, Alicia’s private life is on the critical list. Not to mention the fact that she’s just been passed over for a promotion at work for a job she’s more than capable of doing. And that’s just the beginning of her problems.
At the same time, Matricaria, a mystical and mysterious novice witch whom we only know by her magical name, is learning the ropes from her new coven when she begins to get disturbing visions and dreams that seem to be harbingers of a coming evil. While Matricaria and the other members of her coven struggle to interpret the meaning of the warnings, strange things begin to happen at Theoretic during the long nights of Alicia’s shifts: power outages, unscheduled naps from which she awakes with memories of strange “dreams,” and visits from a piercing eyed stranger who can read her mind. Is he really a vampire? And if so, will Alicia succumb to his allure, or will she withstand his dark desire?
It is clear from the outset of Darksome Thirst that Ms. Westfield knows her characters well … so well that even the smallest details are given. She possesses the talent and ability to paint vivid portraits with an economy of words, allowing us to feel as if we know these people too. Alicia, Matricaria, and Vincent are all life-like. They walk and talk. And so are the secondary characters, down to the absent Kurt, whom we only know through a recounting of past events. Ms. Westfield has a passion for these people and their stories and conveys that to the reader remarkably well.
At first, what’s going on with Alicia at work and what’s happening to Matricaria and her coven seem completely unrelated except by the most tenuous bond of shared danger from the same source. But the author manages to cleverly weave them together slowly but surely until the reader reaches a “Eureka” point of understanding exactly where and how the two connect, a fact which Ms. Westfield rightly gives the reader just enough confirmation to be sure of without an abundance of over-explanation.
While somewhat awkward and occasionally stumbling, Ms. Westfield’s writing does, at times, soar and shine – never more so than during her descriptions of the coven activity. The characters, alive before, seem to leap off the page in these instances. The prose that previously came across as slightly clumsy and dry bursts with richness and vivid description. It felt as if within the coven is where the story truly wanted to lie, and the rest of the time was a departure from its natural course. It’s very rare to encounter pagan activities being so delicately and expertly portrayed; thus, that part of the story was pure pleasure to read and experience. Hopefully the author will continue down this path, which she seems amazingly adept at traversing, in her future work.
Unfortunately, this delicate braid of lively characters and fine storytelling begins to unravel toward the end. Matricaria and her coven fade out of the spotlight in favor of Alicia and her endeavors to discover if Vincent is for real while struggling not to surrender to her work chaos. This turmoil translates to the reader, quite often leaving a feeling of confusion as to what is important and what is not. It continues up to the final battle, which feels rushed and anti-climactic and eschews the vibrant world of mysticism for the cold world of science. In the end readers are left feeling that not only were they themselves robbed of closure and explanation, but these characters they’ve come to know and care for were cheated as well.
But there is hope. We are assured after Alicia’s final tantalizing words that the story will be continued in Ms. Westfield’s next novel The Old Power Returns. Despite some shortcomings apparent throughout Darksome Thirst, there was definitely enough meat there, enough passion in the prose, to bring the reader back for more.
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