Damian Murphy's Daughters of Apostasy was published by Snuggly Books in September 2017.

Information about Damian Murphy:

Damian Murphy is the author of The Academy Outside of Ingolstadt, Seduction of the Golden Pheasant, and The Exaltation of the Minotaur, among other collections and novellas. His work has been published on the Mount Abraxas, Les Éditions de L’Oubli, and L’Homme Récent imprints of Ex Occidente Press, in Bucharest, and by Zagava Books, in Dusseldorf. He was born and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Information about Daughters of Apostasy:

An act of trespass, the subtle topology of an opulent hotel, a lengthy composition involving an exiled abbess, a letter mailed to an unknown recipient, a border station concealed by inexplicable winds, an antiquated electronic game, a rite of passage modulated by a metronome, a Gnostic heresy, a ruined church, an employee engaged in illicit acts of passion: by these and several other devices to the daughters of apostasy seek to irritate the vessels of the earth. Strange wine may be distilled thereby, and thus might the obsessive aspirant perceive the tenets of a hidden doctrine.

In these five stories and novellas, the intrigues and stratagems of interlopers, initiates, poets, and bibliophiles are revealed in all of their illicit splendor. By way of complex and labyrinthine routes do they come to obtain impossible relics not known even among the kings of the earth.

REVIEW: DAUGHTERS OF APOSTASY BY DAMIAN MURPHY

I'll start this review by saying that it's been a while since I've read anything as good as this collection when it comes to literary strange fiction and beautifully written speculative fiction. This collection is stunning, absolutely stunning.

When I began to read Daughters of Apostasy, Damian Murphy was an unknown author to me. I had only seen his name mentioned on a few websites, but knew almost nothing about what kind of fiction he writes. I'm glad I had an opportunity to read this collection, because it greatly appealed to me and left me wanting more.

Daughters of Apostasy is steeped in mystery, occultism and metaphysics. It impressed me on many levels, because I enjoy reading literary fiction that has dark, beguiling, esoteric and fantastical elements. I'm sure that I won't be the only person who finds this collection fascinating, because it's utterly captivating.

The contents of this collection are gnostic, esoteric and mysterious. The stories also have a touch of decadence to them. If you're familiar with classic weird fiction and occult fiction, you'll find yourself at home with these stories and their strange atmosphere.

This collection contains the following stories:

- The Scourge and the Sanctuary
- Permutations of the Citadel
- The Salamander Angel (long version)
- A Book of Alabaster
- The Music of Exile

The narrative focus in these stories is on the occult, rituals, atmosphere and beguiling strangeness, and also on otherworldliness and the things that we can't normally see. There's an obscure and stylistic sense of strangeness that exudes out of the stories and transports readers into the world of the esoterica and the unknown. Although these stories are not Lovecraftian per se, there's something strangely Lovecraftian about them. I also detect a faint touch of Clark Ashton Smith and R.B. Russell in them.

"The Scourge and the Sanctuary" tells of Theodora who writes letters to Sebastian. She tells him about a penthouse that she has become obsessed with and tries to find a way inside. What Theodora finds there and what happens to her is truly fascinating, because she has crossed over into a metaphysical world that changes her perception of reality.

"Permutations of the Citadel" is a story about Algernon and Martin who share reception duties at a hotel. Algernon suggests that they update the map that hangs on one side of the grand staircase. Martin is seeing an older woman, Miss Pataki, who has participated in séances and knows things that only a few others do. I won't reveal what happens in this story, but I can mention that what kind of changes Martin notices in the hotel is fascinating. I loved this story, because it has everything I expect to find in literary strange fiction: beautiful prose, dreamlike atmosphere and alluring strangeness.

"The Salamander Angel" is perhaps the most enthralling story in this collection. It's a beautifully written and sophisticatedly complex novella that has a good atmosphere and memorable scenes. The invocation of the Salamander Angel has stuck to mind, because I find this scene utterly compelling. The image of the ruined church has also stayed with me, because the author's depictions about the church are excellent.

"A Book of Alabaster" is also a great story. It tells of Stefan who lives alone in the lookout tower atop a house. He has bought an old game and a game console so that he can play the game. When Stefan begins to play game and has played it for a while, he sees something strange that frightens him... I enjoyed this story and found it intriguing, because it's something different.

"The Music of Exile" is a novella about Karina who visits the snowbound Stenger house. Her visit marks the third time she has visited the place in as many years. There, she meets the Russian poet Anna Reznikova, who suggests something to her. Karina agrees to what Anna suggests and will undergo a strange rite... I was impressed by this story, because the author writes fascinatingly about what happens between the two poets and what Karina has to do.

One of the best things about these stories is that the author tells of how a building or a structure can exist beyond its physical dimensions and be a doorway to other places. His way of writing about the building and structures intrigued me a lot due to its subtle complexity. I was also taken by the strangely sensual seductiveness of the unknown that is present in the stories.

I find Damian Murphy's prose excellent, because he writes prose that is at its best exquisitely beautiful and beguilingly captivating. The author has a fantastic sense of atmosphere. With his prose, he transports the reader into the world of the unknown and lets the reader be a spectator who witnesses glimpses of the world that lies beyond our known reality.

I give this collection full five stars on the scale from one to five stars, because it's excellent and deeply compelling in its strangeness and features excellent prose. Because I loved this collection, I'll soon read the author's other book, "The Star of Gnosia", which has also been published by Snuggly Books.

Damian Murphy's Daughters of Apostasy is one of the most fascinating collections of literary speculative fiction available for readers who want to experience something darkly beautiful and esoteric. It's a gem that should be read by those who love literary strange fiction.

Highly recommended!

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