A Seeker’s Journey and Initiation into Wicca
This particular text, while published via PublishAmerica, was not given any editing by that company. Unedited works (whether through such a publisher or self-published), more than any other, seem to be a bit of a crapshoot. Because there aren’t the extra pairs of eyes looking over the manuscript (unless the author hires a freelance editor), the quality of the book rests solely on the skills of the author. I’ve seen unedited works which were absolutely stunning–and I’ve seen others that simply stunk. This one is a mixed bag; I’d like to start out by extolling its virtues before getting into my criticisms.
I have to applaud the author for coming right out and complaining about some of the issues with many Wicca 101 and related books: poor research, rehashes of the same old stuff, and inaccurate presentations of deities from polytheistic cultures. She then presents her book as an alternative that avoids these pitfalls, and as someone who’s written books for similar reasons, I give her many kudos! And indeed, while she does cover some basic ideas about Wicca, as well as a small section of rituals, she doesn’t do the usual rehash of “This is an athame, and this is what red candles are burned for”, etc. DeMartini also makes it very clear that Wicca is not whatever you want it to be, and explains her background regarding traditional vs. eclectic Wicca from the beginning.
She also covers a lot of experiential information that many authors overlook, especially concerning the neopagan community as a social phenomenon. This includes things like people in the pagan community who mislead others (accidentally or deliberately), a bit of discussion about coven group dynamics, and what happens when you take oaths in more than one tradition over the years. And I really enjoyed the introduction to Omnimancy which, although not expressly Wiccan, is something that she found personally useful–this is partly a record of her own journey, and so it is appropriate to include it.
It’s very obvious that she’s done her work, and her anecdotes back it up. She’s a great teller of true stories, and she’s seen and done quite a bit. There are a lot of things of interest, especially (though not exclusively) to newbies.
However, this leads into my first criticism. The book could have been better organized. The chapters don’t always segue well from one to the next, and at times it reads more like a collection of essays on a loose theme. Additionally, the book is overbalanced towards anecdotes, which aren’t well-woven with the practical material. It’s all good stuff; it just isn’t tied together well into a cohesive work, which sometimes made it frustrating to try to put together in my mind.
The other problem stems directly from the fact that the book apparently wasn’t put through any formal editing process beyond the author’s own work. While at times DeMartini’s writing is engaging, overall the book reads like a rough draft manuscript. There are certain consistent patterns that kept throwing me off, most notably a frequent appearance of incomplete sentences. Additionally, there were a number of typos, as well as the use of the wrong word (an example being “throws” instead of “throes”).
I realize, as an author and an editor myself, that the prospect of taking one’s pride and joy and running it through the red ink of the editing process can be intimidating. I specifically went with the publisher that I did because I had a loooong discussion with the editor about keeping my writing mine, while improving the overall quality. However, the criticisms I have are things that would be readily fixable by an editor, either a freelance editor, or one with a different publishing company*. As is, the rough draft quality of the book significantly diminished its readability.
There is a good amount of material in this book, don’t get me wrong. DeMartini absolutely has the right ideas and the experience, and this could be a wonderful counterpoint to the usual re-re-rehashing of “This is an athame…” etc. If it were to be thoroughly and professionally edited and reworked, it could be one of the best–and this coming from someone who’s damned hard to impress with basic Wicca material any more.
*PublishAmerica is possibly the most notorious vanity press out there; the SFWA staged a well-known sting a few years ago.
Two and three quarters pawprints out of five.