Category Archives: Hermetic Library Reading Room

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition, Hermeticism in a broad sense, and Aleister Crowley’s Thelema. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

A Princess of Roumania

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park.

Park A Princess of Roumania

A Princess of Roumania is the opening of a multi-volume fantasy work by Paul Park. It is an ambitious portal fantasy, with a protagonist who is a teenage girl–in our world, anyway. It postulates a reality of which ours is a disposable alternative. It’s an interesting match for my recent viewing of the (commendable) first two seasons of the Amazon television series based on PKD’s Man in the High Castle. In the world where Roumania and Germany struggle for supremacy in Europe, sorcery is possible (though illicit) and mastodons roam a barely-settled North America. The means of transition from one world to the other is a book, with considerable metafictional implication (again, compare The Man in the High Castle).

The heroine Miranda is named after the author’s daughter, and the New England town where the story starts is a match for one in which the author has lived. I was alerted to these para-autobiographical elements by John Crowley’s essay on Park’s fantasy (included in the book Totalitopia), and it was this essay that led me to read the book in the first place. Miranda is reasonably sympathetic, but the strongest characterization in the book is for the villain (?) Baroness Ceaucescu. The omniscient narrator jumps around quite a lot, and the two main viewpoint threads are those for Miranda and the Baroness.

I liked this book very much, and while it would probably satisfy the YA fantasy market these days, it seemed like mature fare to me. It is, as I mentioned at the outset, only a beginning. Despite its considerable length, there is little resolution of the plot, although there are some deaths of principal characters and other crucial events. I expect to continue reading this work, borrowing the subsequent volumes from the public library in due course, while I hope to pass on my copy of the first one to a sympathetic reader.

This is my fault for being the departmental computer guy: when the machines break, I wave my dead chicken and write voodoo words on their keyboards until they work again.

Charles Stross, The Atrocity Archives

Hermetic quote Stross Atrocity voodoo

He knew then there was no going back. All paths were closed to him except the plain horror of the present.

Matthew Lowes, Old Growth

Hermetic quote Lowe Growth present

The Rune Oracle

Bkwyrm reviews The Rune Oracle by Nigel Jackson and Silver RavenWolf in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Jackson RavenWolf The Rune Oracle

At first sight, I was impressed by the rune cards that came with this book; the graphics were colorful, well-drawn, and consistent with Germanic imagery and belief. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the book itself. The author does provide some layout methods that I found useful, but her religious background shows in the meaning she gives for each rune. (Norse Wiccans may find them acceptable; Asatruar probably won’t.) She also uses mixed rune names, upright/reversed interpretations, and the blank rune–not a good sign, on the whole. Since there are a few useful tidbits here, though (and GREAT-looking cards!), I’d put this on the “may be useful” list.

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

Randall Bowyer reviews The Rosicrucian Enlightenment by Frances Yates in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Yates The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

At first, the thesis of this book reminds one of conspiracy fantasies like Holy Blood, Holy Grail. It takes a while to accept the idea that Rosicrucianism began as an odd sort of political propaganda for the Palatine Elector Frederick V, but Yates has piled up enough evidence that one eventually gives in. Occasionally her evidence is inconclusive, and now and then it is just silly (e.g., on p. 160 she sees the Rose Cross motif in a picture of a table with roses on it, where the “cross” is obviously no more than the truss-and-wedge which holds the table together!), but still Yates is onto something. An appendix provides the texts of the Fama and the Confessio, making the book useful even if you’re not interested in the author’s theory.

“Is Jane magic?” Martha whispered to Katharine. “I don’t know. I think so,” Katharine whispered back. Jane glared at them. They went for two blocks in silence. “Are we magic, too?” “I don’t know. I’m scared to find out.”

Edward Eager, Half Magic

Hermetic quote Eager Magic scared

The Rites of Odin

Ingeborg Svea Norden reviews The Rites of Odin by Ed Fitch in the archive of Bkwyrm’s Occult Book Reviews.

Fitch The Rites of Odin

Made-up runes, calls to the elements, Christian and pagan elements mixed willy-nilly–plus a lot of the author’s personal agenda, like the idea that pagans should feel bad about not getting married and having kids. If this is what real Asatruar are supposed to believe, it’s no wonder that outsiders confuse them with Nazis, Wiccans, or New Agers.