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The Door of Tireless Pursuit
A Labyrinth of Souls novel
by Stephen J. Vessels
ShadowSpinners Press, $11.99. 286pp
Published: October 2017

Doors open to worlds,
If you are Quick you can pass—
The Quick, or the Dead.

Alexander “Sandy” Creaze has an ordinary life, and a good one by ordinary standards: work, friendships, a home in LA, hobbies. A chance meeting with a beautiful woman named Lark and a daring leap into the unknown changes his life forever.  In a single evening he learns that time and space are toys if you are Quick enough, that some who are gather for camaraderie  in a bar beneath New York City, and that fear risks more than anger can cover in high stakes confrontations. 

When the smoke and dust clear and Sandy finds himself back in his own place and time, he sets out to determine if what he experienced was actual or a delusion. The counsel of an old friend and some basic detective work convince Sandy that Weird can indeed be Real. And just in case he had any doubts, nefarious henchmen and unpleasant entities show up to make trouble. As so often is the case, their efforts have the opposite effect of what they intend. Instead of scaring Sandy off, they make him more determined than ever to figure out what is going on, and why a singular woman is at the heart of all the conflict.

Choice by choice, by steps, leaps, and sometimes by falls, Sandy penetrates a strange, vast labyrinth of marvels and terrors, encounters dragons, monarchs, monsters, trackless deserts and true allies, and is tested beyond the limits of his endurance, searching for the love he lost.

Eventually, understanding Lark’s own quest becomes as important to Sandy as finding her again; because love can show you in an instant who you want to be with, but only understanding shows you how to be with them.

I hope members of the Mythopoeic Society discover this novel, because it is exactly the sort of writing they appreciate. There is an ineffable quality to Vessels’ storytelling that is reminiscent of George MacDonald’s best work: The Princess and Curdie, or Phantastes. Vessels is adept at the transition from ordinary life to extraordinary, which is the heartstone of fantasy. This novel has horrific elements, but these are balanced out by moments of humor and lightning-bright epiphanies. It can certainly be enjoyed as an escapist adventure, but it can also savored as a well-crafted, complex example of a hero’s journey that is all the more compelling for him seeming to be, at first, so unlike a hero.

“The Door of Tireless Pursuit” is the fifth standalone story based on cards from the Labyrinth of Souls game, a 90-card, expanded Tarot deck designed by Matthew Lowes and illustrated by Joseph Vandel. Editor and publisher Christina Lay has this to say of the project: “The Labyrinth of Souls … is a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads of people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams…or your doom.”  Author Stephen J. Vessels, a regular participant at Santa Barbara writing workshops and New York’s Thriller Fest, chose the card Inner Desert, one of the 12 new Major Arcana, as his inspiration. If you are attentive, you will realize that the story contains a number of Tarot Cards personified as characters, or as aspects of characters in times of crisis.  Strongly recommended. ~~ Chris Wozney

For other titles by Stephen J Vessels click here

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