Review: Wormwood by D. H. Nevins

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Wormwood by D. H. Nevins book cover
Wormwood (2011) by D. H. Nevins is an apocalyptic tale, which sees hordes of angels bent on the destruction of Earth. Kali Michaels is one of the few humans to survive – a gift that comes with considerable consequences. Standing in the ruins of a national park, Kali meets Tiamat – half-angel, half-human – who she met for the first time 10 years previous, when she was a teenager. Tiamat is a member of the Nephilim; the race of angels who are charged with the destruction of the Earth. Tiamat, awkward and mysterious, feels a bond with Kali and chose to spare her life at great cost to himself. As Kali struggles to come to terms with the horrendous destruction that surrounds her, seek out other survivors, and deal with Tiamat, the true consequences of the half-angels sacrifice become increasingly clear, and blood is shed as the Nephilim are divided in their opinion of Kali.

The dynamic between Kali and Tiamat is one of repressed longing, and fractious relations. At times this works, at others it doesn’t, with behaviour driven by the plot and not the characters. Given the catastrophic implications of Tiamat’s actions and the huge ramifications they have for Kali’s life, too much emphasis is put on unimportant social gestures and inconsequential feelings, which should be pushed severely down the priorities list. However, Kali has a lot of value as a strong female character, and is a significantly more progressive role model than comparable YA heroines.

The characters and plot are steeped in religious iconography. Wormwood comes from the book of Revelation in the Christian Bible; Kali is a goddess of destruction in the Hindu religion; and Tiamat hails from Babylonian mythology. This aids the sense of permanence that the author’s transcendent world has, and as the novel slowly uncovers more about the Nephilim the novel grows stronger; Nevins’s narrative becoming more engaging.

Although the plot is stronger later on in the novel, the reader is thrown straight into the action through a cinematic opening sequence. From here on in the writing draws the reader in and the plot fairly races along. However, the first hundred pages are a little tedious, as the relationship between Kali and Tiamat is built. The most obvious criticism would be that for a feisty character, Kali too readily accepts Tiamat’s incredible explanation for the events she has passed through. Given the earth-shattering shift in awareness that she is forced to make, one would expect a deeper level of trauma and psychological dissonance on Kali’s part. Equally, as a feisty character, there is too little resistance from Kali to Tiamat and his appalling admissions. Some of the early dialogue feels fairly clunky too, not least due to the amount of exposition is contains, and has the feel of an author who is finding her ear for speech.

Wormwood is the first in a series of planned books, and one suspects that future efforts will offer a more rounded reading experience. With the plot and characters developed, there is plenty of room for the author to create a compelling series. As it stands, Wormwood is a fun read with plenty going for it, but there are issues with the style and elements of the plot; one to persevere with.

I actually found this quite a compulsive read once I got into it. There are technical flaws, but it's an enjoyable read, and for those who read for the story above all else, certainly one to look out.


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Interview: Wormwood by D. H. Nevins
D. H. Nevins is a teacher and fan of a wide-range of fiction. She has just published her debut novel, Wormwood, and is already busily working on its sequel. She lives in a rural area outside of Ottawa with her husband and Grendel, her motorcycle... [Read More]

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