Come Hell Or High Water
Part 1: Well Spring
Author: Stephen Morris
“Come Hell Or High Water” is a trilogy that blends medieval Eastern European history with Tarot and the occult in a very believable manner. Stephen Morris is just the man to write this book – he has degrees in medieval history and theology from Yale University and St. Vladimr’s Orthodox Theological Academy, and has previously written on Late Antiquity and Byzantine church life.
While I am not necessarily a fan of occult/paranormal writing, I was interested in the Tarot and occult background in this book, as well as the setting … Prague in the 1356 and 2002. Those of us in the Tarot world have seen facets of Prague, thanks to the fact that this lovely city is home to Baba Studios, creators of some of the best Tarot decks and books that I have ever seen.
This is a book that you just do not want to put down! It is all about the past, and how the energy from the past lives on in the present. It begins with a flashback to 1356, where we see mob mentality at its best. Fen’ka, a wise woman who lives in isolation at the edge of town, is dragged into the Old Town Square, accused of witchcraft, and burned at the stake. She doesn’t go easily … as she is burning, she brings down a curse on the town and its inhabitants.
From there, we are brought back to current times – 2002 in New York City. Magdalena, a young woman who works at a boring job with the University of Prague, is visiting the city. She is drawn to the signs for Tarot readings, and finally walks into a storefront to get a reading. The reader, an older woman, gives her a three card reading, showing the past (why she came to visit New York City), the present (what she hope to get from her trip), and the future (what she is looking for). Magdalena is warned that she will be offered help, but that the help may come at a price that is too great.
Back in Prague she discovers the ghost of Fen’ka, and agrees to help her get justice. Before this Magdalena and her friends have read the Tarot amongst themselves. But really don’t have a good understanding of it, or of other metaphysical/occult matters. As she delves deeper and deeper into the occult, Magdalena meets the spirit of Madame de Thebes, a fortuneteller that was murdered by the Nazis. In order to communicate with Madame Thebes, Magdalena has to break a spell that the Nazis placed on her. Under the bridge where she met the ghost of Madam Thebes Magdalena is told that she will need the help of Flauros and Halphas in getting justice for Fen’ka.
At the same time, in her 9-5 world Magdalena is given the opportunity to manage a set of conferences that her university is hosting on “Evil and Human Wickedness” and “Monsters and the Monstrous – Legends of Enduring Evil”. Little does she know that this is where she will meet the manifestations of Flauros and Halphas!
The chapters move between the 1300’s and 2002, exploring the legends of medieval Prague as well as modern day Prague. The characters are quite in depth, showing the cultural mores of the time, the social levels, the influence of the church and the guilds, and much more. What is presented is believable … at times very scary, but also very believable! Several of the chapters are named after Tarot cards, and accurately carry the energy of that card into the story.
This is a well researched book, from the point of view of medieval history, the Tarot itself, occult practices, the church, and the psyche behind what motivates people to act as they do. As we move deeper into the story, we realize that part of this is about Magdalena, and her search for power (and what price she is willing to pay for it).
The plot is well presented, up until the reincarnations of Flauros and Halphas present themselves to Magdalana. I still liked the storyline, but found it not as well presented, and possibly less plausible. However, I still recommend this book to those interested in the Tarot,Prague, medieval history, and just a good story in general.
I am looking forward to reading the next two books in this series! A evil force has been unleashed, and I want to see what it is going to do!
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