Sunday, September 9, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft Sundays #2

Sundays is the day that I post up my H.P. Lovecraft reads. Here's the review of the second short story in my massive collection:

The Alchemist by Rick Sardinha
"The Alchemist"
3 stars

"High up, crowning the grassy summit of a swelling mound whose sides are wooded near the base with the gnarled trees of the primeval forest, stands the old chateau of my ancestors."

Begins this short story told by Count Antoine de C-. Antoine describes how his family's castle is now in ruins and that only a tower is still livable in the castle. He lives alone in this tower as he nears his doomed death. He wants answers to his family's history and wants to learn how to break the family curse: every heir dies when he reaches the age of 32.

Antoine recounts how a few years back he was given a family document by his servant and guardian, Pierre, about the family curse. The document describes how hundreds of years ago, Antoine's ancestor, Henri, was responsible of the death of a dark wizard named Michele Mauvis. Michele's son, Charles le Sorcier, swears revenge on the house of C- by cursing the heirs to die at the age of 32, the same age that Henri is killed by Charles. The document then shows the family's facts on how all the men in the C- household have died of mysterious deaths by the age of 32. Antoine becomes frightened for his future.

As Antoine nears the dreaded age, Pierre dies leaving Antoine alone with his fears and curiosities. Antoine decides not to die in vain and instead starts to search through his castle and tries to uncover its mysteries.

He soon finds himself in the dungeons of the castle. As he walks down the dark hallways, he discovers a trapdoor that leads to a secretive tunnel that leads to a locked door. Unable to open the door, Antoine tries to head back to the entrance of the trapdoor. All of a sudden, Antoine hears the locked door creak open behind him.

Up to this point, "The Alchemist" was somewhat dull for me because it was obvious that Lovecraft was trying to embody the works of previous writers, especially Poe. I did not fault Lovecraft as much since he was only 17 when he wrote this and he was still experimenting with his style of writing.

The part of the locked door creaking open was creepy for me. I found my heart thumping at the thought of being in the dungeons by myself in the darkness and all of a sudden a door opens to reveal a dark figure. I would have run away instead of staying put like Antoine did.

I was also disappointed with the ending of the story. It was suppose to be shocking because the mysterious "phantom" reveals his true identity in the last sentences. This ending was not strong because the reader learns the identity a few paragraphs back.

Other than these disappointments, I did like reading it. It was short and much easier to read than his other works. In all, it was a decent short story.

If you are interested in reading "The Alchemist," then you can visit The H.P. Lovecraft Archive or listen to the audio book below:

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