Recovery in Aztlan
Review by Suzanne Buck
Paul DeBlassie III’s The Unholy is a frightening thriller that details the struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Set in the mythical land of Aztlan—the legendary ancestral home of the Aztec—DeBlassie’s novel is infused with the scents, sounds, and traditions of the author’s native New Mexico. The vividness of the sensory description adds to the mystery and otherworldliness of the novel’s theme and setting.
At the heart of the novel is Claire, a 25-year-old mental-health healer and natural therapist who lives with the painful childhood memory of her mother’s untimely death. Orphaned very young, Claire is raised by her mother’s close friend, a kind, strong woman and respected curandera who often reminds Claire that she is one of the last in a line of revered medicine women known as the Lozen. Though Claire is reluctant to take up the burden of that destiny, it seems that she is unable to escape it, as it becomes clear that the forces of darkness that killed her mother now have Claire in their sights. Her spiritual powers and psychic gifts intensifying and sharpening as she comes of age, Claire finds that she must do battle with the evil organization behind her mother’s death, or risk her own life and the lives of those she loves.
The placid and traditional land of Aztlan, with its deep connection to nature and the nearly forgotten old ways of healing, has long been dominated by the powerful, ambitious, and greedy organization called the Ecclesia Dei—itself a rather thinly veiled caricature of the Catholic Church. Head of this soulless and fanatical group is the aptly named Archbishop Anarch—a man who will stop at nothing to achieve total spiritual and temporal control of the people of Aztlan. A truly evil creature, the Archbishop aims to destroy Claire and the traditions of the curanderas. Will Claire be able to fight the Archbishop and win, or will the struggle cost her her very soul?
The Unholy’s stark and unrelenting opposition of good and evil, though providing fodder for a fast-paced and thrilling storyline, allows little room for the many shades of gray with which most humans are painted. The author’s deep and varied experience in psychology and in working with those who escape religious fanaticism would seem a fascinating background against which to develop a more nuanced, subtle investigation of the ways in which religious zealotry can manipulate the psyche. Nevertheless, The Unholy will delight lovers of suspense and horror, and will likely strike a chord with those who have known an evil archbishop or two.
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