Advent

by James Treadwell


Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach


A fantasy novel set mostly in present-day Britain, Advent manages to qualify for inclusion in this website because of its scenes in sixteenth-century Germany reimagining the Faust legend. Faust the historical man is documented in various records and letters of his time, but it's Faust the legend whom we know far better. In Advent, a legendary Faust conjures hellish spirits and demands to see Helen of Troy. Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old Gavin, the novel's present-day hero, is made miserable by his parents' refusal to believe that the "imaginary friend" who has haunted his life as far back as he can remember is real.

The novel opens on a mourning note as Johannes Faust disappears from history: "Believing Johannes in hell where he and his practices belonged, even wise men barely troubled themselves with the fact that all the magic in the world had gone with him." Readers cheering for young Gavin will be hoping the mysteries of his life herald a return of enchantment to the world. As the magic multiplies, it becomes evident that its disappearance had, in fact, been a good thing. Even a heartbreakingly beautiful water spirit brings more trouble than joy into the world.

Advent is a hybrid. With Gavin's story, it fits the dark Harry Potter tradition. In Faust's world, where the tale moves intriguingly backward rather than forward, it's a more complex, richly poetic narrative whose subtle insights finally begin to bleed into the present-day story: "But the faint powers that shrouded Pendurra were embedded in rhythms that could not hasten or change, the rhythm of what came to be called 'nature' because it was no longer the same as the world, it was where no one lived." Readers capable of appreciating both styles will enjoy the whole novel; some may find either that the Faust story presents too sophisticated a literary challenge or that the present-day story feels too lightweight. (2012, 451 pages including an Author's Note regarding the Faust legend)

More about Advent at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository


Other fantasy novels featuring Faust or another magician:

Faust by Robert Nye (1980), a humorous thriller. More info

The Scar-Crow Men by Mark Chadbourn (2011), historical fantasy about a spy and the disappearance of playwright Kit Marlowe the day his play "Doctor Faustus" opens; #2 in the Sword of Albion trilogy. More info

The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd (1993), about a modern London man who begins to have mysterious visions after he inherits a house owned by the Renaissance astrologer, mathematician and philosopher Dr. Dee. See review or more info at Amazon.com


The early Faust tales and nonfiction about Faust:

The History of Doctor Johann Faustus by H.G. Haile (1965), a "recovered" version of the earliest German Faustus tale, with an introduction to its historical background. More info

Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Legend by Leo Ruickbie (2009), about the historical Doctor Faustus. More info

The Gnostic Faustus: The Secret Teachings Behind the Classic Text by Ramona Fradon (2007), about the author's theory that the sixteenth-century Faust legend served as a coded guide to alchemical and other secret teachings about the divine feminine. More info


Online:

Legend of Faust at Faust.com, a website devoted to Faust


Back to Novels of the Renaissance

Back to Directory of Book Reviews