Son of the Witch
Recently, I bought the first installment of a serialized fantasy-horror-mystery novel called Seeds of the Beldam by Keniveth Rexxon. He has a true gift for world-building; crafting entirely new fantasy races and settings. He is also the very first author I have come across that made what appears to be Shub-Niggurath (or at least a being heavily inspired by her) the head of the pantheon for an entire civilization. Rexxon manages also to both create a setting wherein anyone can become a mage but explains why it is that most do not: the magical forces of reality attach themselves to the mage and influence their life the more that they are used. Basically, someone may be reluctant to bind themselves to conscious cosmic forces. He also manages to blend past, present, and future because of the indeterminate lifespans of the primary race that the narrative follows; he even touches upon issues of technological incompatibility being a common issue because of having technology from so many different eras because of having living people from so many different eras. The Jyndrani are basically humanity, but they came directly out of the blood of the All-Mother and their reality is full of countless existential threats, so there was never any stagnation or uncontested dominion of mankind. Instead, it is a reality wherein a blend of every conceivable thing that nature and eldritch entities can throw at them and at each other does so; thereby creating a constantly contested world wherein mortal races simply never came to wholly dominate the setting. Not once does he use the terms man, woman, boy, girl, men, women; instead jynandra refers to adult males, jynodra to adult females, jynodrei to intermediary females, jynandrei to intermediary males, jynodri to female children, and jynandri to male children. Speaking of children, there are these beings called Chindrien that seem to be basically perpetually children created by reality itself to counter-balance the indefinite adulthood of the Jyndrani. The jyndrani are all adult sometime between their mid-to-late teens, but have no fixed lifespan because of the number of things that they have concocted to keep themselves from ever withering. Because of that, jyndrani children are not born very often, but apparently children have some special role in keeping reality wondrous, so the chindrien manifested to fulfill the role and are seemingly more common than jyndrani children. The author seems to be a mystic, clearly highly educated in the occult and in theories of consciousness and spirituality. To imagine the tone of this, imagine a blend of Lovecraft with a mystic's philosophical leanings with a dark wild fantasy world with a mystery taking place. The plot starts with the narrator and main character explaining that he was involved in a calamity that shook the earth in a village on the fringe of civilization. He explains that it all started with him finding moving plant seeds that resembled insects in his house one night. He went to the temple of vernal fey to try to identify them; then he went to meet with the headmistress of an institute he works for. Her son, as well as twelve chindrien, had all gone missing in a village that his wife had traveled to. Furthermore, the crops were failing there for the first time since the place was founded. So, Sivaera agrees to help solve those mysteries and goes to the village of Korostovei. That is basically the plot setup. I liked how the author managed to explain why it was that a direct route to Korostovei (the village) was not possible, nor was it easy to contact them after they had cut themselves off from the communications array. One thing that irks me about many authors is establishing something, like advanced technology or an elaborate infrastructure or the presence of mages, yet failing to explain why it is not used when the need arises. Rexxon covers his bases there. So, upon getting to Korostovei we get some more world building both on the journey there and on the arrival. Throughout the whole thing the narrator describes this gradually increasing sense of impending doom, and we finally get our first genuinely scary scene with his nightmare that first night in the village. After that, they turn their attention to trying to solve the mysteries, but he runs into trouble when everything seems to suddenly change. He finds himself in a contradictory set of circumstances that led to his involvement, leading to the whole unreliable narrator trope being employed. However, the implication is that the whole place is in the grip of some dark magic that is altering everyone's memories and cognizance. This first part ends on a cliffhanger with someone succumbing to some body-horror blight. Most of the reviews complain that it was hard to keep up with the plot, but honestly I had no trouble distinguishing the plot from the world-building: the plot is the mysteries, 1. the seeds, 2. the missing son, 3. the missing chindrien, 4. the blight upon the community, 5. all of this apparently leads to some sort of calamity out there, as established literally in the opening paragraph; basically a case of telling us something of how it ends before taking us back to what started the whole series of events and the narrator recounting how his involvement started. Furthermore, by keeping this to a first-person narrative, it allows the plot to stay very firmly Sivaera's recounting to someone or something he is speaking to and does not get side-tracked with side-plots. One thing about this reality is that people can conjure and show scenes and events from their memories and imagination to one another. He states he is using that ability to tell this tale. Furthermore, in this setting, reality itself has a background soundtrack that can be heard. You are basically living in a movie. A fantasy movie at that. I found the philosophical musings reminiscent of things one might read in the works of various occultists as explanations for the various aspects of reality to be fascinating. Magic is not simply something that is used whenever it is convenient; magical forces shape and mold reality and have an intent and purpose of their own and cannot be treated as a trifling thing. The forces of the natural world were never entirely conquered and the tenuous reign of any jyndrani society has to be constantly actively maintained: there are things that go bump in the night and they absolutely will get you. The gods are many and varied, and the jyndrani manage to make themselves in some way useful to basically any notable being that they can; that is how they survive: constantly taking the initiative and remaining constantly adaptable, always relevant in some way to something. The divine right to rule is quite literally an actual living power that seeks out an appropriate wielder. For everything that exists an equal opposite thing also exists: the jyndrani spend an indefinite amount of time as adults, the chindrien are a perpetual child-race. Things exist that create, and things exist that destroy. Other things I liked are the physical controls that they possess, such as the conscious control of all matters of fertility because of their link to their All-Mother. This apparently extends to all of known reality because of her power and because of their power, their rituals and adherence to her helping to maintain the maternal aspect of reality. They feel almost like a matriarchy but not quite the way that is usually portrayed. There is no indication that there is any gender-bias in leadership or in the theocracy or anything like that. Instead, it seems more a case of the shortage of males caused by the violence of their world creating a majority-female world wherein many males are prostitutes because of the scarcity of males. Sivaera states that the reason for marriage in their world is primarily that a wife can whore her husband to other women for a fee if he is married to her; it is basically about controlling a scarce commodity. This fellow was seduced by a lady 110 years his senior when he was only a teen and was made to marry her at twenty. The author seems to have read a lot of Salvatore and came up with a more functional interpretation of such things. I suspect that Sivaera suffers from something along the lines of Stockholm Syndrome, as he seems to love a lady who trades him so often he is sexually exhausted and never wants to cheat, is implied to sometimes abuse him if he misbehaves, is over a century his senior with all that she has gained in that time, is clearly wealthier and more connected than him, and he seems to have been made to marry her ever since she came to increasingly dominate him starting in his teens. The overall theme seems to be of a man trapped in a spiderweb, surrounded by both supernatural threats and scary women. I am definitely looking forward to future installments to get more of this setting, unravel those mysteries, and get more horror, both from the plot itself and from his scary wife. Rexxon has stated that he is trying to build an original setting for future works, he has a Youtube channel, sells his book on his own site at Sellfy ( just look up Aurum Throne Seeds of the Beldam ), and is looking to work with others on things if they are interested.