Twilight of the Serpent

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Twilight of the Serpent by Peter Valentine Timlett.

Timlett Twilight of the Serpent

This final book of Peter Timlett’s occultist-inspired quasi-historical fantasy trilogy is set in Britain in the first century C.E. Chapter one introduces 10-year-old Jesus of Nazareth on a visit to England. I shouldn’t have been surprised, especially since an overture to this eventuality had been made in the second book (thousands of years earlier in narrative time). But neither Jesus nor the “Culdee” refugees from Palestine become central to the story told here, which is about the demise of British Druidry and the Roman conquest of Britain. The end of the book manages to tell the story of the Druid defeat after that of Boudicca’s rebellion against the Romans–although the chronology was the reverse–by means of some “Akashic” shenanigans, and it’s an effective device.

In some ways I guess it’s no worse than the standard fictional convention used to present all of the ancient conversations in English, but it really bothered me that the characters in the book used C.E. dates to reference events in their time. When the Druid high priest refers to “when the Romans first landed at Richboro nine years ago in 43” (169) it makes me wince. I’m sure Timlett worked hard to get his history right, and that his academic sources used C.E. dates, but inflicting them on his pagan characters when Christians are a small persecuted sect at best is just too much for me. He didn’t have his prehistoric Druids in the second book use B.C.E. dates, and this was hardly less anachronistic than that would have been.

The ceremonial magic elements were consistent with the earlier volumes, but the whole affair of the sacred tradition has obviously and consciously degraded in this later age, so that the priesthood is a weak thing indeed. Even so, the primitive Christians do not benefit from comparison to the Druids, despite their destiny to succeed them as custodians of the Light. Chapter seven is an excellent thaumaturgical set-piece, for which the chief operator is Gilda the Witch-Maiden, whose lunar and herbal sorcery is marginal to the solar cult of Druidry.

This book was perhaps my least favorite of the three, but they did fit together into a suitable whole.