BRIAN S. FERENCE — PURGATORY OF THE WEREWOLF — 2017
Note I received this book for free from the author — but with no strings attached, I sure wouldn’t like that — and I find it interesting enough to post a review, which is the continuation of my review of the first and previous volume, “The Wolf of Dorian Gray,” but be careful it may contain some spoilers.
So Dorian Gray is a werewolf thanks to the mishandling of his portrait by the artist Sage Holdworth who used Romani magic, incantation and herbs that amounted to a curse. And the people he does not devour, he only scratches and licks become werewolves in their turn.
But that would be too simple.
Lady Helena, Rivera by her father and Wotton by her marriage, decides to solve the problem by sending Dorian to China to conquer the country with the French and thus re-open the harbors sending opium to Europe and the world. Ah! The beauty of colonialism and imperialism! We are at the end of the 19th century and you can imagine China divided by the French and the English in two zones under their respective influences. Beautiful nostalgia of the West.
Dorian is made a plain sailor and Lord Crawley, his ex-associate in business he ruined and rejected, pretends to be his friend and protector on that mission and he is made an officer that has authority and power over Dorian. And we more or less understand that Lady Helena entrusted Lord Crawley to get rid of Dorian as soon as some opportunity may present itself.
But Dorian is a werewolf and he has strange powers. First he heals very fast when wounded as if he were eternal, unkillable. And second he is very strong. He thus saves his ship one dark moonless night when on duty in the crow’s nest of the ship by raising the alarm when he saw a dead whale ahead. He then jumps into the ocean to save some of the sailors, one officer among them, who had fallen into the water that was infested with sharks. He thus saves some lives too, after saving the ship
Lord Crawley — I can’t help being reminded of the Lord of Hello in “Supernatural,” a certain Lord Crowley from Scotland — assigns Dorian to impossible missions in China hoping he will not survive, but he always succeeds, especially when on a full moon night when he turns into the werewolf he is deep under his skin.
During that time Lady Helena has found some Romani help to ends the curse Sage had cast on Dorian via her portrait of him. So she orders Him and Lord Crawley back to England as soon as possible. They arrive at Lady Helena’s mansion and Dorian is proposed to be shackled down before the imminent full moon in order to be submitted to the exorcism. He hesitates because no shackles can hold the beast when it comes out. So Lord Crawley from behind shoots him through the head but at once he starts healing and they just have time to shackle him down in the cell they had prepared for him, and they start the exorcism and inside the emerging beast Dorian is trying to resist, rejects the beast but it does not work. The beast liberates itself. In fact, they had chosen this full moon because it was a Blood Moon, but it makes the beast a lot more powerful and Dorian cannot really succeed.
And yet the surprise is to come in no time. The incantation of the Romani sorceress, fortune teller or seer, the one you prefer, manages to separate Dorian as a grey wolf, of course grey, isn’t it, from the real monster in the form of a black wolf, in fact a varcolac. Ah! the beauty of Romani folklore!
A varcolac in Romanian folklore may refer to several different figures, a wolf demon that, like the Norse Fenris, can and may swallow the moon and the sun, thus causing eclipses. Some legends say it is a ghost or vampire (Strigoi) while others say it is a werewolf (in some versions, a werewolf that emerges from the corpses of babies. Varcolaci are said to be souls of unbaptized children or children of unmarried parents; beings cursed by God rising because one swept dust out of the house at sunset (understand if you can); or beings coming from the sun rising if women spin at night without a candle or if they cast spells as they spin.
Varcolaci are often described as dogs, always two in number; animals smaller than dogs; dragons; animals with multiple mouth, such as octopus; spirits. Varcolaci are said to fasten themselves to the thread of people spinning at midnight, then going up to eat the moon and cover it with blood, hence the reference to the blood moon in this story. Their power is said to last as long as the thread that here ties them up to Dorian in the picture, hence the real Dorian, is not broken. If the thread gets broken, they go to another part of the sky.
Varcolaci are recognized by their pale faces, as well as the deep sleep they fall into when sending their spirits out through their mouths to eat the sun or the moon. If they are moved during their sleep they die as their returning spirit won’t be able to find the mouth where they came from.
This breaking of the thread is brought here by the Romani sorceress and Dorian’s will to separate himself from that monster but surprise of surprise Dorian is a good grey werewolf who will go on turning into a wolf on full moon nights, but a good werewolf like Anne Rice’s and he will only devour bad people or dead people, which he does on the spot at the end of the battle. The black varcolac is rejected and second surprise a certain Doctor or Professor Van Helsen who is here not Dutch but Romani intervenes in the battle and starts chasing the black varcolac and they both disappear in some tunnel. Good riddance.
But the purgatory has to lead to some salvation and in the end we are told that the very vicious Dorian now becoming a good boy has nevertheless licked the poor Lady Helena who is going to be immortal and on full moon nights she will be able to have all kinds of good adventures with Dorian. I am already longing for the next episode, some Arabian Full Moon Night story somewhere in the world, chasing criminals and hunting bad guys.
But the funniest element of this story is the role of China, in fact Asia in that 19th century world: it is the land of all colonial adventures and the provider of the common drug of those days, i.e. opium.
Today nothing has changed.
Apart from heroin and cocaine more or less coming from Latin America, opium, in the form of opioids, has become the most common, rampant and dangerous addiction in America and since they are medical drugs, you just need a prescription and money — or a health insurance — to pay for them. The perfect drug for the middle class. And where does it come from? Not China anymore but mostly Afghanistan the first producer of opium in the world. But maybe they have synthesized these opioids to make them more legal, more medical, and of course a lot more expensive since they are covered then by some pharmaceutical patents. Can you see the pharmaceutical varcolac rising behind?
As for adventure, if we follow Trump the descent onto Beijing starts in North Korea in less than a week, hence before the end of August 2017. Or it might start too in Venezuela and go on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and who knows where in the world. In the imperialistic West nothing changes ever. They need their slaves and their wars all the time. The werewolves are only the spice of the soup or the story. As for the latest example of that western curse, recently in Lincolnshire, England (they voted for Brexit there) a gang of slave owners have been sent to prison:
“A BRITISH family kept 18 homeless people, some with learning disabilities, as slaves for up to 26 years and spent the money they earned on luxury holidays and cosmetic surgery.
The Rooney clan trafficked its victims, aged between 18 and 63, and forced them to live in cramped caravans without water or heating while they enjoyed a life of luxury.”
Really what kind of varcolac has seized power in this world? You will like the story of this Dorian Gray. But Oscar Wilde must be stirring in his tomb: “What have they done with my story of sexual and social vice?”
Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU