Witches of London: Lars, by Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: 44 Raccoons
Release Date: August 10, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
After a homophobic pagan group rejected him, Lars Kendall is a solitary heathen on the Northern Path, loyal to the gods of the Norse pantheon. But being on his own sucks. So when he finally meets a mixed group of other queer witches and magick-users, it’s like finding family. If family involved exploring past lives and casting spells.
Rhys Turner quit a stressful job in the City after his high-strung boyfriend of six years walked out. He sold the expensive flat in central London and bought a run-down house out in the suburbs. Never mind that it needs walls knocked down, its garden landscaped, and what the hell is up with that carpet?
With his health failing, Rhys is desperate for a clean slate and a new start. He isn’t ready to fall in love with anybody, least of all the hunky builder who looks like he’s stepped out of a TV show about Vikings—tattoos, long hair, and all. But as strong and loyal as Lars is, he also has a very soft heart, which might be the hardest thing for Rhys to resist.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about paganism or Norse gods. I know the names Odin and Loki from movies and TV but not why people pray to them for help or guidance. So, this gorgeous book from Aleksandr Voinov was not only enlightening, it was beautifully written and thoroughly enjoyable.
Lars is perfection. He’s hardworking, honest and loyal to the Norse gods he looks to for guidance on almost every matter. Raised by an unorthodox family, his knowledge of pop culture is practically nil but he can run a farm and work with his hands and makes a healthy living running his own home renovation business.
Rhys is a man reformed. After spending years working around the clock and chasing the almighty pound in London’s money markets, he suddenly finds himself jobless, alone and suffering from a potentially life-threatening illness. But that illness has brought him a certain amount of clarity and living (and dying) on his own terms has become paramount.
Watching the two men fall in love is wonderful. There is an immediate connection between the two of them, but it doesn’t feel premature or forced. Rather, it seems almost destined. Rhys has all but given up hope for a recovery, but Lars, with his gentleness, his honesty and his deeply held beliefs has other ideas and they involve invoking help from the gods to aid in Rhys’ recovery.
I am not a particularly religious person, but I find there is a simple beauty in the way Lars worships and how he lets that ground him, both physically and spiritually. I was fascinated, even charmed by his rituals and I loved the small group of witches that take him in and make him one of their own. Although they all have different practices, they meld quite beautifully together and I couldn’t help but think that this is what organized religion should really be about – respecting that each group approaches things differently, but that they all have one common goal: to be heard and understood by the Spirit or spirits they pray to.
Just putting out a little reassurance here; this book is not about preaching some sort of pagan gospel. Rather, it feels more magical than anything. I was fascinated by the whole thing, from the reliance on astrology, the use of tarot cards, the focus on grounding your spirit and your energy and the use of hypnotism to reach the gods. I was so intrigued that the romance between Lars and Rhys seemed almost like a bonus!
I have to say, that I didn’t expect such a tender book from this author and it was a most pleasant surprise. I’m hoping we will get Julian’s story next but really, a book featuring any of the group members would be great (although I’m still holding out for a Julian/Tim story. I think they’d be combustible in the best way).
Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he works as an financial editor, writing coach, and complementary therapist. At 41 years of age, Voinov has written more than two dozen novels and published five novels with German publishers. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov is now primarily writing queer fiction.
Interests at the moment include WWII, medieval siege warfare, William Marshall, the Golden Age of Piracy, and whale-hunting. These interests are subject to change from one day to the other, and Voinov single-handedly sustains two bookshops in London.
You can find Aleksandr online at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.com/
Buy Witches of London: Lars from:
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.