In case the above quote doesn’t make it abundantly clear on its own, please allow me to note here at the outset that Conjurer’s Oath by Malachi Stone is decidedly not a beach read. As he did in the outstanding Devil’s Toll, in Conjurer’s Oath Stone once again explores seriously ambitious material, challenging the reader to step up and keep up. And to bring an open mind.
Thirteen-year-old Dennis Krause lives with his parents and sister in Hades, Illinois. He and his friends ride bikes, sneak looks at girlie magazines, get dragged to church by their parents, and go on boring family trips. It’s a life not unlike that which any boy his age experiences in small town America in the early 1960s.
When a massive explosion levels the town while Dennis and his family are away on a family outing, his father takes it as a sign and moves the family to an isolated religious commune led by an evangelist known as Possle Strong. Forced to live simply without modern conveniences, Strong’s followers depend on him for everything from their basic wool robes to their spiritual well-being. But when Dennis meets a mysterious girl not much older than himself who works in Strong’s house, it soon becomes clear that the spiritual well-being of his “lambs” is not the only thing Strong is concerned with… nor is Strong merely a charismatic charlatan.
Strong takes the two youngsters under his wing and gives them access to a library filled with books covering every possible aspect of religion, science and philosophy. And magic. Along the way they discover that Strong appears to have the power of second sight, as well as the ability to time travel. The more Dennis learns, however, the more he doubts the things he thought he already knew. So when Possle Strong seems to bring his dead wife back from the grave, Dennis is no longer sure if what he witnessed was a work of divinity or merely an elaborate parlor trick. The only thing he is sure of is that he must get away from Strong.
What unfolds from that point is really difficult to tie a tidy little bow around and present in a review, as author Malachi Stone takes Dennis and the reader on an impressive journey through the mysteries of the mind, especially as they relate to the space-time continuum. Guided by the journal writings of a philosopher/scientist named Sandor Zeit-Reisender (who in a nice bit of continuity acknowledges the work of Professor Bruno LeGrand as his inspiration, the same LeGrand whose work inspires the lead in Devil’s Toll), Dennis explores the concept that the only constant in the universe is gravity, that the human mind is not subject to that constant, and that if one can sufficiently harness the power of their mind they will achieve the ability to move backwards and forwards in time. Free your mind and your ass will follow. Literally. Remember how I said you needed to bring an open mind? Yeah.
Stone is a master at making you think you’re going down one path while so subtly actually steering you in an altogether different direction that by the time he springs the real destination on you, you don’t even realize how you got there. He clearly operates, and writes, from the position that having an open mind and insatiably asking questions is more important than the answers one actually arrives at, and his ability to write a book that is as equally pro-religion/spirituality as it is pro-science, without ever actually drawing conclusions or taking sides, is nothing short of magic itself. Stone may call himself an author, but personally I think he needs to add conjurer to his résumé. And you need to add Conjurer’s Oath to your reading list.
Conjurer’s Oath is available as an e-book at Amazon.