Vergil in Averno: The Sequel to the Phoenix and the Mirror

Avram Davidson, Author Doubleday Books $12.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-385-19707-6
Inspired by medieval legends about the poet Vergil, who was revered not only as the author of the Aeneid but also as a powerful necromancer, Davidson embarked on his Vergil Magus series in the '60s with the intriguing novel The Phoenix and the Mirror. In this sequel, Vergil answers a magical summons from Averno, both the wealthiest and the filthiest of cities. The magnates there are worried about the waning and shifting of the natural fires that have fueled their industries and fouled their air. The bare skeleton of plot is fleshed out with an eccentric, wide-ranging series of digressions, reminiscences, dreams and cabalistic glosses, all in a rich, baroque, rhetorical style. Between that form and the subject matter (counterfeiters and alchemists, rituals of superstition and sorcery, mystic visions and magic lantern shows), the novel is less akin to fantasy than to the fiction of Laurence Sterne or William Gaddis. An acquired taste, the work is by turns witty and obscure, frustrating and fascinating. (January 23)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1986
Release date: 12/01/1986
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