(a reader’s guide to fantasy)
by Oliviu Crâznic
translation from Romanian by Alexandra Sârbu [MTTLC student]
click aici pentru versiunea română
Serban Andrei Mazilu is a young Romanian author who debuted in 2013 directly abroad, in English, with the first novel from the series The Angellove Society, namely Crux (whom I have written about on a different occasion), followed by a short story set in the same universe, Magic and Madness. However, the subject of this article is the newest and in my opinion, the best work so far, signed Serban Andrei Mazilu, published at the beginning of 2014: Limbo.
Limbo is a novelette which pertains to the dark fantasy literary genre, with noir and even gothic elements. Maintaining the characteristics of the former works, defining for Mazilu’s style (firstly through luxurious fantasy and spectacular action, but also ironical lines – the latter ones fewer in number, as the ‘heavy’ atmosphere required), Limbo takes The Angellove Society series into a new, unexpected and very inspired direction, proving that the author of the novelette can easily go beyond entertainment, conveying both style and message at the same time. On the background of a (Romanian and foreign) literature which seldom ever renders anything, the last quality mentioned seems the more worthy of praise and respect…
The story – ethical, exciting and sinister – takes place in a small town, replica of the Purgatory, a sort of ‘Chicago’ (in Prohibition times) reinvented in Victorian style, a city which gives the title of the novelette: ‘Limbo’ is also a character-city, that gathers sinners (humans or monsters), never sees the sun and apparently, which doesn’t offer any salvation to anyone. The brutal murder of a fairy will lead the investigation of the two odd detectives – the stout, capable and tired werewolf and the young, elegant vampire woman, who is arrogant and cynical and can never sleep, because of the absence of the day – towards a large, unconceivable conspiracy. Witnesses die along the way, nobody is to be trusted, angels and demons work together for redemption or maybe damnation, while werewolf Hank B. bears his cross to the end, masked under his own terrible secret. Uncovering the secret takes the reader, without a warning, right in the middle of another story, a classical one this time, because we discover astonished that Hank’s name is not actually ‘Hank’ and B. is an initial letter which hides a lot more…
At the same time, through the characters portrayed and the events conveyed, but also through subtle mottos cleverly introduced in the economy of the text, Serban Andrei Mazilu highlights the fall and faults of a human race who seems to have lost its ‘compass’ and who, I’m afraid, depicts a similar image to our reality today… But, what if heroes and celestial beings still exist or what if the bad can sometimes be seen from different angles and turned into something good?… Reminding us of Sin City, Anita Blake or The X Files, Limbo remains an ‘original Mazilu product’ through personal (and not little either) philosophy and mythology, a product which fully deserves a Romanian translation, be it written by the author or a skilled translator, who should succeed in maintaining the troubled picture rendered by the English version intact.