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A Time Travel Adventure to Ancient Sicily - an Editorial Review of "The Sicilian Sorceress"



Book Blurb:


Alexis is living the good life in San Francisco: a prestigious job as an art curator for the San Francisco Museum of Art, a budding romance with a fellow garden lover, and trips to Europe to immerse herself in history. But when Alexis is accused of theft at work, she turns to an innocuous herbal remedy to relieve her anxiety, only to be sent back in time to 440 BC Girgento.


Instead of curating ancient history, Alexis is living it.


Finding herself in a flourishing Mediterranean city on the southern coast of Sicily, Alexis drops into a parallel world where her job as the gardeness and herbalist of Girgento’s famed Kolymbethra gardens is gratifying but perilous, fraught with deceit, betrayal, and politics. Holding the power to heal or harm, Alexis is at the mercy of the goddess Demeter and a singular quest that seems impossible to fulfill.


Can Alexis accept her fate in this new world and find a way to save Girgento from those who would destroy it? Will she be able to unravel the mysteries that connect her old life to the new?


Or does the goddess have something else in mind for the sorceress?



Author Bio:



Mary Knight is a writer and lover of history, travel, food, and everything European. The Sicilian Sorceress is her debut novel. A Paris-trained chef, and former cooking teacher, her recipes have been featured in several magazines and newspapers. When she’s not traveling, Mary lives in San Diego with her dog, Desi, where she can be found tending to her Mediterranean-style garden full of vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees, while dreaming of her next adventure. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her at www.maryknight.net


Editorial Review:


The Sicilian Sorceress is a magical read from start to finish. Words can hardly encapsulate the delightfully whimsical nature of this book. If readers are looking to be immersed in ancient Greek culture and lifestyle, this book is a must read.


The protagonist, Alexis, is a curator of ancient artifacts in a museum in California. We learn early on that her life has been fraught with tragedy with her parents passing away in a car accident as well as her beloved dog dying. As a result of these occurrences, Alexis is left with debilitating panic attacks and insomnia. While she loves her job at the museum and is seeing a therapist to help her through her trauma, there are many instances in the book where we are privy to her inner turmoil. An example of which is as follows, “Some days, I wasn’t quite sure how I fit into this life. Work was intellectually stimulating but something was missing. What that was, I couldn’t put my finger on. My life was full, as least as far as I knew what “full” meant. Is anyone really, truly, happy and satisfied with the life they are given? I harbored fears that I would never be enough.” I find Alexis to be a very relatable character. We have all struggled with imposter syndrome, low self-esteem and not knowing our place in the world at times. Her struggles are universal.


The Sicilian Sorceress is separated into three parts. The initial part describes her backstory as well as the latest challenge in her life, her boss. Stephen accuses Alexis of stealing an ancient artifact, the head of Demeter. This is a serious accusation and even though Alexis is innocent, her reputation is severely tarnished. She is suspended for a week despite overseeing the preparations for the upcoming exhibition of Agrigento circa 450 BC.


Themes of spirituality and mysticism are interwoven beautifully throughout the novel. Before the head of Demeter went missing, Alexis described her admiration of the artifact, “My fingers couldn’t help outlining her narrow lips and hollow eyes as a sense of destiny washed over me.” As readers discover throughout the novel, Alexis’s life is indeed interwoven with the wills and wishes of the goddess, Demeter. Alexis goes on to think, “It was as if she [Demeter] had returned from the deep past and chosen me for some sort of mission. Was I crazy to think this? I did believe in past lives. But to have a relationship with a true goddess? It must be the tinctures talking.”


Alexis has been chosen. She has been chosen to go back in time to Girgento circa 450 BC to fulfil Demeter’s wishes and help the community there. The author’s skill and attention to detail with regards to world building and creating an emotional experience within the reader is exceptional. We experience Alexis’s visceral fear of being transported back in time, as evidenced by the following quote, “A sense of foreboding and overwhelming dread swept through my body, and I curled up in a ball, trying to make myself invisible.” It is clear she is moving from fear to denial when she thinks to herself, “The tincture was playing with my mind, and I was having an expanded consciousness experience—I hoped.” She finally reaches acceptance, “I mentally prepared myself for this challenge, finally decisive and accepting this new life as an opportunity to learn and grow.” To her surprise, she finds a home within this new world which is clear when she thinks, “I began to feel I belonged here, hidden in the deep valley, alone with the plants and animals. It was a place of quiet and peace; a place where I could think, contemplate, and figure out my problems, undisturbed.”


Alexis becomes the gardener and herbalist of Girgento. In her previous life in California, she experimented with creating tinctures with the help of her friend, Scott. She also kept a garden and further expanded her skills with Scott as her teacher. Being immersed in nature is something that is clearly important to Alexis based on the following sentiments, “Tune into nature and the teacher will appear.”


Alexis begins to make new friends in Girgento. She becomes close with the oracle, Iris, as well as the builder, Leonardo. She even adopts a dog, Sparta, who is her constant companion and protector. Although she has become an integral part of the community, she is plagued by dreams of Demeter. In the dreams, Demeter is chasing her, sometimes waving a stalk of wheat at her. Alexis knows that this is more than just an ordinary dream and contains a message as to what her mission is during her time in Girgento.


When a large amount of the wheat supply goes missing, it becomes clear that Alexis must find out where it is, who took it and why. Without going into detail and giving spoilers away, suffice to say, Alexis is successful in her mission and saves the city from the dire possibility of starvation.


What I appreciated was the author’s ability to draw parallels between the two world’s which Alexis inhabits. While Alexis solves the wheat theft in Girgento, she also figures out who stole the head of Demeter when she returns to her life in California. With this person exposed, Alexis is able to clear her name and have her reputation restored. It truly is a full circle moment.


The author takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing all of the ups and downs of Alexis’s journey. The ending is bittersweet. While the theft mysteries were solved, the community in Girgento thrived, and the exhibition in California was successful, we are left with an imprint of sadness at Alexis’s loss of her home and friends in Girgento. This loss was inevitable as she had to return to her home in California and live her life there.


The author has crafted a masterpiece, without hesitation 'highly recommended' and readers will be delighted to know that there will be a sequel to this magnificent book and will be waiting in anticipation to find out where Alexis’s journey takes her next.

*****


“The Sicilian Sorceress” by Mary Knight receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company


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