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An Allegorical Olympian-size Wonder - an Editorial Review of "The Maenad's God"

Book Blurb:



A seamless blend of psychological thriller, dark satire, magical realism, romance, and myth, The Maenad's God is the story of a war that's been fought for thousands of years; the war between the ancient arts of music, poetry, and love; and the equally ancient forces of artistic envy, oppressive law, and authoritarian religion.

"Consider this a kind of prayer to the heartless void, for I am now in joyless communion with a dead god."

Peter C. Morrow, former Special Agent

Boston Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Date: Eternity

Alienation. Myth. Music. Law. Madness. Death. Divinity.

Boston 1992. Pete Morrow is an alienated FBI agent whose only escape from the colleagues and society he despises is through reading literary classics. When his boss sends him to warn away a drug dealer on an obscure army base, he discovers a murder and becomes obsessed with Jade McClellan, a mysterious man from Toronto whose rock band just performed at the crime scene. Tough-guy Morrow has never been in love before—but Jade is almost magical, an embodiment of myth and literature who creates living fantasies that rapidly become the only thing Morrow values in his otherwise miserable life.

But there's a problem. Morrow is investigating a mafia family that is investing in Jade's musical career. Being open about their relationship could get both of them killed.

Morrow's murder investigation annihilates his hard-boiled understanding of reality when he learns that Jade is an abandoned, mortal son of Dionysus, the god whose energy informs hard rock. Jade's mafia support is being arranged by Dirty Penny Starmaker, a witch who started life in 5th century BCE Athens, where she received a divine mandate to promote brilliant musicians throughout history. Penny is in a centuries-old war with Hugh McCrae, a primeval, human-like "monster" who has currently incarnated himself as a congressional aide with an unhealthy interest in Morrow's work. McCrae (rhymes with "decay") carries his own divine mandate to promote cultural decline by eradicating creativity and art. At the present time, this includes Jade, his music, and Morrow's newfound happiness.

After all, the universe must balance, no matter who gets destroyed in the process.

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Author Bio:

Karen Michalson earned a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, focusing her studies on nineteenth-century British literature and history. She later earned a law degree from Western New England University and ran a criminal defense practice. Somewhere between literature and law, she formed a progressive rock band, Point of Ares, in which she writes music, plays bass, and sings. Point of Ares has released four CDs, two of which are concept albums based on her Enemy Glory books. She lives near Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Enemy Glory trilogy was completed with the publication of her third novel, The King’s Glory (2019). She describes the trilogy as "literary fiction tripping the dark fantastic." She recently finished her fourth novel, The Maenad's God. It explores alienation, myth, music, law, madness, and eternity through the lens of magical realism and social satire. It’s set in 1990s Massachusetts.

She keeps a blog called Matter Notes where she writes about the war on the humanities, creativity as spirituality, and her observations on culture and society as a self-described New England recluse:

Editorial Review:

Let me explain. Sometime in my late twenties, and certainly by my early thirties, I dimly and reluctantly started to realize that there's nothing charming to do in life. There are six billion people on the planet. Except for cultural and language differences, which aren't all that great after the first five minutes of contact, “human nature being what it is,” about 5.999 billion of them are fairly interchangeable. Everyone says the same things on the same occasions and struggles like hell to make sure those same occassions become a daily event. Everyone slogs out of bed in the morning. Everyone then has a rousing family fight. Everyone sacrifices the better part of a day to some useless, senseless job. Everyone sacrifices the better part of every evening to to that same job, fights again with the family to kill an hour, or mumbles through practical non-convesations about bills and groceries. Some people stare through a few idiotic TV commercials to break things up, and then come morning it all starts again. Life is such fun. And the fun keeps going for decades, for decades, one miserable water-torture day at a time, right down into generations of perfectly matched graves.


Item. Most of the time you might as well be dead. It's only going to get worse.

What is to be said about The Maenad's God? This book, indeed, is not for the faint-hearted or light-reader as this book's rich prose touches on the sublime and is one which beckons a reader to settle in for the long-haul as Michalson reaches deep within a literary core to tell this story. While the length of the book might deter many readers from tackling the narrative, it is well worth the time needed to soak in this masterpiece.

While attempting to summarize the plot line, without giving too much away, you can almost sense the author sitting at a loom and weaving the themes back and forth like a shuttlecock – the underlying political chaos, the very personal struggles of the main character as he discovers his inner voice and feelings, all rolled within the effervescent fantastical and mythical world tangled within the modern-day stage of the 1990s.

From the beginning, Peter Morrow, the cynical crime investigator who works for the FBI is thrust into a strange case involving a soldier named Claude Hopner on an army base in Rome, NY who is selling drugs on the sly backed by a notorious Mafia family. The author's gifted ability to connect the reader to the main character immediately is brilliant, and even though to some his meaty words and endless notations of details might seem obtuse and unnecessary, it is this very tool which gives incredible depth to his character and becomes VERY necessary as you learn more about him as a person and how this quality helps him to sort out the crime presented to him, as well as his own inner workings.

There is so much going on within this satirical narrative... like a resplendent tapestry full of governmental corruption, unexpected love, 1990s rock and roll, and social issues, all bound by a thread of the metaphysical world of demigods, sorcerers, and witches. When Morrow meets the members of a rock and roll band entertaining the soldiers on his trip to investigate Claude Hopner's drug dealings, the story takes a strange turn when the base commander is discovered murdered in a ritualistic way, complete with attached notes and clues... and an unusual rapidly decomposing body. Morrow investigation becomes immersed in the rock band's lives, especially since they acquired the gig through their association with Hopner... and Morrow's sudden attraction to the lead bass player, Jade McClellan. As Morrow continues to follow up on the leads for Hopner's possible dealing and the murder, his fall down the rabbit hole leads him to some astounding discovers, such as the revelation that Jade is the mortal son of the god, Dionysus, and his connection to two other secondary characters which are involved in his investigation – a warlock named McCrae (an FBI most wanted criminal) and a sorceress named Penny (using her magic to promote Jade's band) who are locked in a never-ending centuries-old metaphysical war.

Outside was all August crickets and warm spongy night. I hadn't felt the sun all day because I had been driving, and so the lingering heat heaved itself into me like a shabby reminder of discomfort, and the mushy air felt like a dirty secret as I felt my shirt sticking to my suddenly sweat-soaked skin. The crickets sounded unnerved, their chirps loud and angry protests, as if nature had just informed them that they were scheduled to die in a few weeks. Nothing is clean here, I thought.

While reading this review a reader might wonder how in the world a book could contain such themes and make them work together seamlessly, but Michalson does it with incredible skill. The author, herself, works magic as she blends this impossible narrative into something resembling a classical symphony, using her main character as a storyteller who discovers the underlying tones of lyrical poetry which soften his hard cynicism as he connects with Jade's mythical world.

The growth of the characters, even the secondary ones, and the development of the storyline is, indeed, like an awe-inspiring symphony full of the slow opening which builds to a sheer poetic crescendo. Morrow, in his investigation into the seedy underbelly of corruption, and the Mafia's ties to politics, social and moral issues, and yes, even rock and roll, is led on an odyssey, a Herculean-size case which, in the end, helps him discover things about life, love, art, and himself in a very enlightening and satisfying way... and thus, the reader is gifted with a true literary epic masterpiece.

Morrow himself gives an outstanding summary for this novel:

I sighed and let loose. “McCrae is 'murdered' while impersonating a high military official. His corpse vanishes to dust in the morgue, and the story becomes an election year scandal that touches off public protests on every controversy since whose religion got kicked out of Paradise first. Then your band's 'benefactress,' or shall we say, 'patron witch,' who happens to be jointly financing your career with some character out of a western movie set who's quickly making his way up the ten most wanted list, cheerfully and knowingly brags to an FBI agent about her high creativity in doing the deed. Then a congressman worried about re-election exerts pressure on the FBI to find the killer, and I get put on the case with the added spin of being a drug law enforcer as a means of bargaining with the mob family whom the public suspects of making the hit. The same mob family, I might add, that's promoting your band. Then McCrae shows up in my office, alive as a clump of cancer cells, to tell me he's a 'special assistant' to the same drug committee this congressman is assigned to and could I please find his wife for him, and it turns out that his long-lost wife just happens to be your mother. And as an added attraction, he's pushing some bizarre pills around that sound like leftovers from a turn of the century medicine show and leaving photographs on my desk which to my tired investigative eyes appear extremely threatening to you and your bandmates, notwithstanding your neo-pagan girlfriend's circle casting.”


“The Maenad's God” by Karen Michalson receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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