First published back in October of 1991, Clive Barker’s epic fantasy novel ‘Imajica’ was the author’s first novel to be more fantasy orientated than that of horror.  The novel was later re-released in two parts by HarperTorch in 1995, predominantly due to the sheer length of the tale.

The ideas behind the story apparently came to Barker within a number of dreams.  And once he began the novel, the writing consumed him to such a degree whereby he was writing up to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, for the entirety of the writing process.  These furious levels of output meant that the whole novel was completed within the space of just fourteen months; from the time the author first put pen to paper, until the moment it was finally submitted to his publisher.

A collectable card game was later released by Harper Prism in August 1997 that was inspired by the story.

DLS Synopsis:
Our planet is just one of five Dominions, collectively known as the ‘Imajica’.  The Imajica as a whole is overseen by a God known as the Unbeheld Hapexamendios.  Many years ago, the Dominion of Earth was separated from the other Dominions of the Imajica.  The remaining four Dominions are ruled by the Autarch who live within the city of Yzordderrex in the Second Dominion.  Those who practice the ancient arts of magic (known as the Maestros) have repeatedly attempted to reconcile Earth with the other four Dominions.  One of these Maestros was Christ from the Christian text.  However, attempts at reconciling can only be performed once every two-hundred years.  All attempts thus far have failed, the last one resulting in the deaths of all those involved.  Because of this mass slaughter, a secret society named the Tabula Rasa was formed to prevent any future use of magic on Earth.

In New York assassin, Pie ‘oh’ Pah, has been hired by Charlie Estabrook to murder his wife - Judith Odell.  The assassination however fails.  But during the attempt on her life, Pie ‘oh’ Pah took the face of Judith’s ex-lover, John Furie Zacharias (aka Gentle).

Estabrook, now full of remorse for what he has done, contacts Gentle in a hope that he will protect Judith from this assassin.  Full of understanding, Gentle accepts, and upon arriving into New York, he prevents Pie ‘oh’ Pah from fulfilling his hit on Judith once again.  However the androgynous Pie ‘oh’ Pah seduces Gentle under the guise of Gentle’s ex-lover, Judith Odell, only to be revealed as the assassin once again when Judith telephones interrupting their coupling.

Meanwhile, the person who assigned Pie ‘oh’ Pah to murder Judith (a man named Chant) has been murdered at the hands of another man named Dowd, who is himself from a different Dominion of the Imajica.  Unsurprisingly, the Tabula Rasa meet at the Roxborough Tower, along with Dowd, to discuss the murder of Chant.  Dowd’s master, Oscar Godolphin (Estabrook’s brother) is subsequently summoned, and in front of all of the other members of the Tabula Rasa, Godolphin murders Dowd, claiming that the man is in fact a doppelganger.

Upon obtaining a strange blue rock from Estabrook’s home, Judith locates Gentle (who has become obsessed with Pie ‘oh’ Pah after their moment of passion together) as he leaves with the assassin for the fourth Dominion via the ‘In Ovo’.  And upon arriving into the Fourth Dominion, the two travelers almost immediately find themselves in trouble with the people of the village of Vanaeph.  Fortunately, Gentle learns of the magical power within his breath (the pneuma) and kills one of their attackers - known as a Nullianac.  Leaving Vanaeph behind, the two travelers head off through Beatrix and up the mountain of Jokalaulau towards the Third Dominion.  And during their journey they witness the slaughter of the people of Beatrix at the hands of the Autarch, but they were unable to reach them in time to offer any aid.

Meanwhile, in the hope of uncovering more information on the Imajica and the city of Yzordderrex, Judith meets up with an ex-member of the Tabula Rasa named Clara Leash.  Together the two women attempt to release Celestine from the Roxborough Tower (who Judith previously had a vision of; induced by a stone she took from her husband’s house).

Everything is now well-and-truly set for this epic adventure into parallel worlds full of the magical, the fantastic and the dangerous.  Countless characters and unique experiences await these three travellers, as they make their way through the Dominions of the Imajica.  Their paths will take them through unimaginable landscapes, taking them on towards the reconciliation of the Goddesses of the Imagica for their rightful place within the universe, and ultimately the confrontation of the Unbeheld God of the Imajica and the reconciliation of the five Dominions.  However, along their way they will each need to look into their individual pasts to find out who they truly are…

DLS Review:
To say that ‘Imajica’ is a complex array of interwoven storylines would be a truly spectacular understatement.  From the very outset, Barker dives headfirst into the utter maelstrom that is his seemingly limitless imagination.  For the first couple of hundred pages of the book, the reader is placed in a position of simply uncovering various details into this elaborate universe that Barker has created.  Each small snippet or introduction of a new character knots together more and more of the reader
s understanding of the Imajica, until the principles behind the existence of the five Dominions are eventually unveiled.

Now, with the story’s principal characters embarking on their journeys through the five Dominions, Barker is finally ready to totally embrace the vast (and seemingly bottomless) depths of his imagination.  A whole new twist on the storyline begins to play out; with every new sight and destination that the reader is presented, delivered through the eyes of these ambitious travellers.  Numerous subplots of magnificent detail run alongside the prevailing thread of the tale; each one delivering its own unique baring on the novel’s ultimate outcome.

Barker uses a unashamedly blunt approach to re-establish the basic stories of Christianity in order for these tales to weave themselves into his newly defined universe.  Unsurprisingly, Christianity is given a slightly unfavourable light, following Barker’s brazen adaption and transformation from a number of aspects of the Christian religion.

The strength of women and the barbaric injustice against the Goddesses by the dominating male god that oversees the Imajica, allows for a powerful message to be brought through this epic adventure.  Barker’s own struggle with his sexuality, along with the freedom that should be allowed to each and every one of us, is a constant undertone that can be witnessed throughout the length of the novel.

As with all of Barkers novels, each and every one of the characters have their own individual parts to play within the novel’s constant development.  Nothing has little consequence within the story.  Each new encounter, exchange, or death, has deliberate ramifications on the path in which the story ultimately follows; each twist and turn seeming to point the reader in a whole new direction.

Throughout the novel, the reader is encouraged to constantly view the story both from the ground level of the characters, as well as from a more all-encompassing perspective.  This takes on board the many principles and ideas that lie behind it, making up an emotional message of love, power, passion and strength.

This wondrous escape into such a finely crafted new world of multiple ‘Dominions’ is nothing short of a masterpiece of magical literature.  Remarkably, the sheer complexities involved within the multi-layered storyline never once become too cumbersome, but instead allows for a tale that draws the reader deep into the its progression.  Packed with emotion and incorporating subtle questions for the reader to probe (as well as throwing out some important messages to further ponder upon), ‘Imajica’ takes on board a vast array of reader-engaging qualities.

The novel is an absolute joy to read from start to finish.  Not only has Barker created an epic novel in length, but ‘Imajica’ is truly epic in every other aspect that one could possibly bestow upon it.  This is imagination taken to its furthest degree; mapping out a tale of magic, beauty and the divine. 

The novel runs for a total of 1136 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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