The Unholy by Paul DeBlassie III
Release Date: August 1, 2013
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Sunstone Press
Source: Review copy for Tour
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A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision. Paul DeBlassie III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.
Having witnessed her mother's death at age five, Claire has spent her entire life rejecting her heritage as a medicine woman. Instead, she focuses on her patients at the local psychiatric hospital, which is run by the Ecclesia Dei. However, when dark undertakings by the church's hierarchy begin to effect her patients and her personal life, Claire must assume her birthright as the sole remaining member of a prestigious line medicine woman.
In a town where everyone is under the Ecclesia Dei's thumb, Claire faces oppositions from all sides as she fights to unveil the corruption of the church. There is a sickness at the heart of the church that only she can cure.
The Unholy is certainly an ambitious undertaking: combining elements of mestizo culture, christianity, and classic fantasy tropes. DeBlassie's novel has a lot going on and sometimes it was difficult to keep everything straight, but it was entertaining every step of the way.
It's been a while since I've read a classic hero's journey, so it was kind of refreshing to be reacquainted with the archetype. Claire is a quintessential heroine: orphaned at a young age, refusing to assume her destiny/birthright, and, ultimately, reconciling her past with her future. It's a bit trite. I didn't mind in the slightest, but I can see how others might.
The main antagonist is the archbishop (don't worry, it's not a spoiler; you figure it out early on), and he actually confuses me. I mean, just as Claire is your archetypal heroine, he is your consummate villain—complete with a deal with the devil and everything! But occasionally there were shades of grey thrown into his character, but they were never fully expanded upon. It was unfortunate, really; DeBlassie could have given his villain another dimension but failed to do so. Actually, there were many characters who were never fully developed. It's understandable; the backstory to the plot was intricate and time-consuming. So it's really no surprise that some of the major-minor characters were flat, but it was still a little disappointing. I think I was just expecting a plot and characters as intricate as a Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) installment, though. Which is just ridiculous on my part.
But despite my hang-ups, I really did enjoy this story. It has a complicated background, but it is simplified by its adherence to a basic plot. Ultimately, it all balances out into a well-composed, engaging story that will have you admiring its peculiarities.
However, I have to add this disclaimer: I can easily see people being offended by its portrayal of religion, and I would caution reader's to take it with a grain of salt, so to speak. I personally didn't mind it—everyone is entitled to their own beliefs—but I certainly don't want to lead any reader astray. You have to be fairly confident that you can handle blatant contempt for what may or may not be your beliefs. If you can, this book is worth the read; if you are uncertain, I would suggest you hold off.
But as always, the choice is up to you! I enjoyed it—I think most will—but, as with all books, it's not for everyone.
So, if you want a well-written hero's journey, I would definitely add this to your shelf.
Paul DeBlassie III, Ph.D., is a psychologist and writer living in Albuquerque, New Mexico who has treated survivors of the dark side of religion for more than 30 years. He is a member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Dr. DeBlassie writes psychological thrillers with an emphasis on the dark side of the human psyche. In The Unholy, a young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.