If you’re a regular reader of my book reviews, you’ll know that I’m no stranger to fantasy. Not only do I love the genre, I’ve been awarded the opportunity to review a lot of fantasy books, presenting their own worlds within their own subgenres. It’s a broad genre that can be used in many different ways, although it’s not often that a fantasy book offers something so different that it genuinely surprises me. Mayatte’s Catharsis: A Feathered Serpent Reborn by Jack E. Mohr is one such rarity, a take on the genre that is truly different.
At approximately 92 pages on your favourite eReader (at the time of writing, I don’t have a page count for the paperback, nor the running time of the forthcoming audiobook), Mayatte’s Catharsis is a novella told within just six chapters and a prologue. In the small amount of space, Mohr takes readers to a secluded island containing an element that can heal people, as well as deeper mysteries, tells a story about the threat of colonialism, and weaves an awe-inspiring fantasy tale that packs in plenty of heart. The plot involves western forces landing on the island, and protagonist Naña providing assistance when one of them falls ill. To provide more detail would spoil the journey the novella leads its reader through.
Although the novella is named Mayatte’s Catharsis, I wasn’t prepared for what a cathartic experience it would turn out to be. From the prologue through to the end of the sixth chapter, Mohr tells a richly layered story full of beauty and resonant themes. As the story progresses, it is a journey that unveils more of the world and the mystery surrounding its characters.
Through these characters, the reader sees how wonderful humanity can be, but also its self-interest. This is shown throughout the story’s rich characters, exemplified by the protagonist Naña, whose journey the reader follows, and “outsider” Zeke. These two characters play against each other beautifully. They hail from completely different cultures with different worldviews, but the humanity between the two of them shines brightly. The book is filled with other characters, all of whom are enjoyable. Though, given Mayatte’s Catharsis’ length, they’re not explored in any depth, and largely fit within their archetypes.
For all the beauty included within Mayatte’s Catharsis’ pages, the dialogue, unfortunately, doesn’t always ring true. The characters all sound distinct from one another with clear voices. Naña’s dialogue, and that of the other characters from her culture, sings. It flows beautifully and gives a wondrous sense of character. The outsiders’ dialogue, however, doesn’t shine as brightly. It doesn’t flow as naturally as it does with the rest of the characters, and on occasion, long conversations between them are a little difficult to follow.
I was struck by the author’s prose,which feels like a fable passed down through the generations. Although squarely set within modern times, it presents a timeless quality that captures not only the magic contained within the book’s fantastical elements, but the magic of storytelling. However, at points, the prose doesn’t run as cleanly as I would have liked, with various passages not living up to the magic that the rest of it evokes. There aren’t any major issues with this, but another round of edits could have smoothed out its rougher edges.
The timeless feel of the novella’s prose fits perfectly with the story. As much as that reads like a fable, so does the story. It features outsiders who modern, western audiences will recognise, yet their inclusion doesn’t detract from the classic feel of the story. A large part of this is that it’s told from Naña’s perspective, and these characters are outsiders, strangers to the world that she knows and loves. As the story weaves through its plot and introduces its fantastical elements, it is reminiscent of ancient myths; stories told throughout time. The titular Mayatte’s mythic nature only amplifies this feeling.
While some of the dialogue and prose aren’t as grand as the rest of the book, Mayatte’s Catharsis remains a wonderful experience. Throughout it, Mohr offers a thing of beauty, evocative of ancient myths while looking at humanity, for better and worse. This novella is full of magic, both in its world, and in how it tells its story.
A solitary black flame flickered above the center of the altar. The flame was alluring and captivating, hypnotizing Naña. Within the flame she saw a reflection of herself. She appeared saddened, riddled with guilt—guilt from failure, guilt from inadequacy, the shame and remorse was keeping her a prisoner within the flame. Naña shook her head, snapping herself out of the trance.Mayatte’s Catharsis: A Feathered Serpent Reborn, Chapter 4
Mayatte’s Catharsis: A Feathered Serpent Reborn was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
Mayatte’s Catharsis is available in physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon), with an audiobook to follow.
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