A really awful aliens-from-space movie: Martian woman Nyah (Patricia Laffan) comes to Earth to kidnap Earth men to help repopulate Mars after a devastating war between the sexes. She traps a group of people inside an inn within an “electric wall”, which allows the film to be shot in the studio instead of on location. Nyah possesses the power of invisibility and a hypnotic stare, and a robot companion named Chani who uses a disintegrator ray. The movie’s ad line says it all: “She Wanted to Take Young Men Back To Mars.” Comparison to “Mars Needs Women” are obvious, even though the latter was produced over a decade later.
I was a fan of the original GuildWars online MMORPG from the first moment I discovered it included the Mesmer profession for player characters. I played it for several years and still do on occasion, but I long since did everything I could and even creating a new character with a different profession wasn’t all that interesting any longer. Now I’ve found a similar interest in the sequel game, GuildWars 2.
Three years ago, ArenaNet released GuildWars 2. One of the great mysteries surrounding the release was the final character profession, which was (as many players were hoping) again the Mesmer profession, much changed from the first game, alas. GuildWars 2 was, like its predecessor, a non-subscription game, with only the initial payment for the client software the only main outlay to play the game. At the time, and since, I couldn’t really afford the (admittedly minimal) cost, plus, at the time, I didn’t have a fast enough Internet connection that could handle the massive size of the client download. Therefore, I parked my interest in the game and carried on with other things.
Just recently, however, ArenaNet “unlocked” the game, so people could play it for free. Granted, access is limited to only two characters, and other aspects are limited or locked, but the core elements are still available. I decided to give it a try and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Of course, I had to create a Mesmer character, actually two of them. Part of the character creation is a series of questions about the character’s past. The one human character (the other character is a Norn, which are very large human-appearing beings: I tried a Sylvari (plant-based creature) but I wasn’t satisfied with the visual image, although I may return to that race in the future) was asked about what they wished they had done in their past: having seen the questions and the results before, I answered the question with “run off to join the circus.” That determined the series of quests in the second segment of the character’s personal development story, involving the Floating Grizwhirl.
The Floating Grizwhirl
The Floating Grizwhirl was a hypnotic device used by the Ringmaster (no, not that one) to foment chaos and destruction within the capital city of Divinity’s Reach and the ultimate overthrow of Queen Jenna. The character is drawn into the plot through the machinations of a particular Minister and the need to rescue a lost child. That leads to a confrontation with hypnotized carnies, a personal tryout for the carnival, a private meeting with the Ringmaster and the ultimate confrontation with the Ringmaster and the hypnotized audience. Along the way, the player’s character gets hypnotized by the Ringmaster and led to believe that everyone around them is a monster, who are similarly hypnotized.
The above video is the first quest, where the character investigates the missing child. Note that the video above unfortunately cuts out near the end. However, the player character is a Mesmer, which is why I used it.
My only quibble is that we never get to see the Floating Grizwhirl in action. I was hoping for some pretty serious special effects here, at least some spirals or swirls.
Leona Hewitt has secretly made her way into Lord Delbridge’s private museum to retrieve a relic stolen from her family. But someone else is in the dimly lit gallery on the same errand: a tall, black cloaked man whose very voice is enough to cause her to fall into a trance.
Thaddeus Ware, a mesmerist with psychic gifts, is accustomed to fearful reactions from others—women, in particular. After all, a man who can control the minds of others could rob a lady of her virtue—completely unbeknownst to her. But Leona shows no trace of hysteria in his presence. A gifted crystal worker, she exerts a rather hypnotic power over the hypnotist himself. And she is determined to keep the coveted crystal they manage to recover by giving him the slip at a run-down London inn.
Thaddeus, on assignment for the Arcane Society, knows the menace Leona is courting by absconding with the crystal. A source of remarkable energy, it holds the potential for great destruction. Lord Delbridge has already killed to acquire the crystal, his key to membership in the élite, shadowy group known as the Third Circle. And, with the help of a ruthless hunter of preternatural skill — dubbed the Midnight Monster by the press — Delbridge intends to find Leona. With the stolen crystal in their possession, the danger is only beginning.
Two very driven individuals, both with agendas that set them against each other, both with passions that draw them together.
Thaddeus can command virtually anyone by his power of psychic mesmerism, which isolates him from virtually any human contact, only to discover Leona, whose own psychic gifts allowed her to break his command. She interfered with his mission to recover the lost aurora stone, eventually losing to her wiles, but she also saved his life and his sanity through her gift of crystal manipulation.
Leona has gone to great lengths to recover her family’s lost heirloom, a fabled crystal owned by her famous ancestress, the fabled Sybil the Virgin Sorceress, only to encounter Thaddeus on the same quest. His insistence taking possession of the aurora stone was only the latest potential setback she encountered, but without his aid, she would have died a torturous death many times over.
Against them both are Lord Delbridge, a member of the secretive Arcane Society of psychic researchers and practitioners, of whom Thadeus is also a member, a psychic hunter of sorts, employed in investigations involving other members of the Society. Delbridge also employs a sinister scientist and alchemist and a psychic and psychotic murderer. Behind them is the occult group of the Third Circle, who plan to use both the aurora stone and Leona in aiding them unlock the secrets of her ancestress Sybil, and are more than willing to kidnap and murder to gain their objectives.
As this is a romance novel, and a formulaic one, at that, Thaddeus and Leona pair up to counter all threats and discover true love in the process.
- Synchronicity Time: Just a few days after I finished the previous Amanda Quick novels, I was at the local library, in their connected coffee shop. The library disposes of unwanted or overstock books through sales through the coffee shop, and I walked past the display and just happened to notice this novel by Amanda Quick. Knowing full well my propensity for synchronicity, I examined the contents and discovered another mesmerist as a primary character. Of course, I had to purchase it to add to the Collection.
- Amanda Quick is the pseudonym of Jayne Ann Krentz, a popular New York Times bestselling author of period, paranormal and period paranormal romances. More information on the book can be found at her website, here.
As if a head for business and a nose for trouble aren’t enough to distinguish fiercely independent Lavinia Lake from the other women of London’s fashionable Claremont Lane, there is one more feature to set her apart. Lavinia is also well versed in the practice of mesmerism, an extraordinary gift that far surpasses mere charm and physical appeal. Nobody knows this better than the usually coolheaded Tobias March, who seems to have fallen hopelessly under her spell. Fortunately for all, however, Lavinia uses her powers for good. And ever since a tragedy involving one of her subjects, she has even retired them in favor of her work with Lake and March, a joint venture providing “discreet private inquiries for individuals of quality.”
Mrs. Lake and Mr. March have a rocky first encounter: he is systematically rampaging through the tiny shop Mrs. Lake and her niece operate, all in an attempt to force them to leave and thus remove them from impending danger. Nevertheless, they find reasons to continue their relationship, despite the friction of their equally strong personalities. As these are romance novels, their relationship also continues to be fraught with unresolved passion.
Part of that passion and that friction is due to the fact that Mrs. Lake is a talented mesmerist, although Mr. March is quite hesitant to allow himself to be placed under her magnetic influence for medicinal purposes, even though he is quickly falling under her captivating spell as much as she is falling under his. However, in her new occupation performing private inquiries, Mrs. Lake finds his company and her mesmeric powers advantageous, and not always in the expected manner.
Mrs. Lake does not want to return to her mesmerism practice upon returning to London after her encounter with Mr. March, after a tragedy involving a former patient and the repercussions from the patient’s husband. Instead, she is drawn into Mr. March’s inquiry into the existence and location of a diary that relates the doings of one of the principal leaders of an international criminal organization, a part of the impending danger that threatened Mrs. Lake earlier. That leads to a complicated investigation also involving a death threat against a prominent lady of society, missing prostitutes and murder. Only upon the final confrontation with the murderer does she resort to her talent for mesmerism, using her pendant as a focus to entrance the murderer to induce them to gloat about their past crimes, as well as distract them from killing Mrs. Lake.
Mrs. Lake encounters Doctor Howard Hudson, an old friend of her parents, both of whom were experienced mesmerists, himself a professional mesmerist as well. He is in London to further his research into mesmerism, specifically, in search of the fabled Blue Medusa, an amulet legendarily reputed to give the wearer powerful mesmeric abilities. With him is his new wife Celeste, who has her own interests and her own plans involving the Blue Medusa. However, when Celeste is found murdered and the Blue Medusa is discovered missing, Mrs. Lake and Mr. March are charged with investigating both crimes, only to find a web of murder and mesmerism behind the theft and the crimes that follow. Complicating matters is the presence of Lord Pelling, the man whose wife committed suicide under Mrs. Lake’s care, in London unexpectedly.
Mesmerism is a central element of the novel here. Without giving too much away, it appears throughout the novel in a multitude of circumstances and by a number of individuals including Mrs Hudson, including, as it does in all of these novels, with Mrs. Lake using her mesmeric talents in confronting the murder.
Mrs. Lake investigates a mesmerist undercover by complaining of “feminine discomforts”. The device the mesmerist tries to employ in relief while she is ostensibly mesmerized is essentially a mechanical dildo: whether this device as described was authentic is not known but it certainly would be typical of the period.
Mrs. Lake and Mr. March are by now well known by certain very prominent individuals and are significantly an item such that they are invited to a weekend outing at a noble’s estate. However, the appearance of the wife of an old friend turned enemy seeking the aid of Mr. March and an “accident” at the outing involve them both in a murder mystery involving the infamous Memento-Mori Man, a famous killer for hire thought retired long ago, or, possibly, someone emulating his work. As in the first novel of the series, the story underplays Mrs. Lake’s mesmeric talents until the very end where she employs them to distract the murder until aid arrives.
- Amanda Quick is the pseudonym of Jayne Ann Krentz, a popular New York Times bestselling author of period, paranormal and period paranormal romances.
Such a promising title.
Such a profound disappointment.
To put this bluntly, this is a Biblical tract, not a story. Each chapter is wholly or in part a morality play in miniature, complete with such nameless stock characters such as the man who drinks too much, the gambler, the unfaithful husband, the false witness, the beset-upon Chinaman (yes, this work is reflective of the period and therefore there are definite strains of racism and misogyny within) and the “fallen woman”. There is little dialog and very few attempts at character description or characterization. Each story involves the Witch Hypnotizer as she wanders through the town, encountering individuals with problems or moral flaws. Then comes several Bible verses, single verses carefully selected and disjointly assembled, then comes the demonstration of the reformation of the particular individual and the resolution of the existing problem or situation. End of lesson.
The unnamed protagonist, the Witch Hypnotizer, is equally obscure and occluded: no physical description of her is ever given, but there is a description of her power:
It was nothing tangible, but an indescribable something which gave her influence over other minds, to bend them to her will.
She is also completely certain of her mission of the spiritual and social reformation of others according to the mores of the day, including the proper place of women (in the home and without the vote). By her certainty, does not feel the need to seek informed consent. Furthermore, there is never any kind of demonstration that the Witch Hypnotizer actually performs any kind of act to induce the reformation. (That, apparently, is left up to the imagination of the reader.)