In this latest offering from Jeremy James, Brave New World meets The Quest for the Holy Grail.
At the age of 34 years and one week, having reached new personal depths of depravation and degradation, Xavier Perdue (the name says it all) prepares to flee his base and futile existence in a futuristic world scarily recognisable as possessing trends and attitudes presently pervading our own society.
The Alchemical Horseman
by Jeremy James
Goldmark Books, ISBN13 9781870507776
cloth bound hardcover, blocked in gold
RRP £15, available from www.theAlchemicalHorseman.com
Read sample pages
Depressed by inner knowledge of his failure to realise his potential, and increasingly convinced that there has to be more to life than the Inn of Oblivion and the Nymphaeum, Xavier is ready to abandon the world of chemi-coffee and gm-flakes, identi-chips and pod mail. Prompted by an emerald-eyed girl, a vision of a horse and the impromptu gift of a book whose blank pages invite his subversive thoughts, he answers the inner challenge and opens himself to transformation in search of peace and purpose.
This allegorical quest is related by alternating the threads of reality and fantasy – Xavier lives in the third person and records his visions of knight, enchantress and the Blue Horse in the first – and the story culminates when the two intersect. Self-belief can bring freedom, yet the power of positive thinking and the value of visualisation cannot triumph until the mind is open to Truth, for we each carry within ourselves the seeds for success or failure.
Finally, of course, the fragmented hero becomes whole, the dream reflects reality, the mystery is explained and the Earth is set right on its axis. In making this transition, Xavier shows that it is possible to change our world and ourselves for the better, and find fulfilment in the process.
The book is imbued with symbolism, and references to astrology, mythology and other means of divination abound – each chapter takes its title from a tarot card, for example – but many of these are clarified in the glossary and the appendix.
Having enjoyed this author’s Byerley Turk, I was lured into reading The Alchemical Horseman by the promise of more of that musically poetic language and an equine protagonist. Initially sceptical (quests and self-improvement are not my thing!) I was soon swept away, finding the characters intriguing and the storyline surprisingly compelling – altogether a very satisfactory read.
So savour the language – keep a dictionary close by if necessary – and enjoy the power and intensity of James’s brilliantly crafted work.
Jeremy James was born and brought up on a coffee plantation in Kenya where he developed his love and respect for the natural world.
Inspired by the nomadic travels of African camel drovers, he set off on his own journey on horseback from Turkey to Wales in 1987: an adventure which led to the writing of his first book, Saddletramp.
Since then he has written several books, including Vagabond – his tale of riding through Eastern Europe during the collapse of communism; The Byerley Turk– a historical novel based on the true story of the first thoroughbred; and The Tippling Philosopher, a collection of rural short stories. He now lives in a remote part of Shropshire where his peaceful, unspoiled surroundings continue to inform his unique and lyrical prose.