The Aquarius Key: A Novel of the Occult
Self published via iUniverse
Most of the fiction I end up reviewing has a more neopagan slant to it. However, when the author of this particular gem told me that it was a story that wove in Western occultism, I jumped at the chance for something new. And I was duly rewarded, as it was a good read all around.
The premise showed a lot of potential. Two perfectly mundane, ordinary people in modern-day London have their lives entirely turned inside out by the intrusion of an occult plot that could have universe-shattering consequences. Their experiences become increasingly disorienting as they’re dragged deeper into intrigue and conspiracy in an elaborate plot to manipulate them into just the right place at the right time. This may sound a bit like a bad Satanic Panic novel; however, it’s of much higher quality than that. The author is well-versed in ceremonial magic, and weaves a lot of Thelemic and Qabalistic material into the story–and I do mean a lot.
The execution is pretty good. I will say that the first half of the book was a bit on the slow side, though I stuck it out and thoroughly enjoyed the second half, which got a lot more interesting. Rowley has a good grasp of his characters and describes their feelings, thoughts and reactions well; I had clear images in my mind of what was happening, which helped with the entertainment value.
The occult material in the book is a mixed bag. Everything revolves around a destined plot to bring about the Aeon of Horus, and there’s a ton of Thelemic material throughout the book. Rowley also draws heavily on Qabalah, particularly gematria. It’s rudimentary enough that someone with casual understanding (like me) will understand what’s going on, though it may go over the heads of those who are not magicians of any flavor. I think my main complaint with the inclusion of occult material is the same complaint I’ve had with neopagan novels that also attempt to teach basic Wiccan principles amid the story–it doesn’t blend very well. Sometimes the novel reads more like a treatise on basic ceremonial magic than a story; I understand when authors want to make their audiences clear on what’s going on, but it’s very hard to throw lessons into a plot without it coming off rather clumsily.
Still, it was a fun read, and it kept me entertained on my commute for a few days. I’m not 100% sure how more orthodox Thelemites may feel about the depiction of Aleister Crowley in this book (yes, he’s brought in as an actual character) or the rather violent interpretation of the Book of the Law, and a few readers may find the occasional sexual content (including that which essentially opens the book) to be a bit much. But if you’re looking for a decent occult-themed novel that wasn’t written by someone who thinks we all eat babies and has a good yarn to spin, this is a good choice.
Four pawprints out of five.