Damiano – R.A. MacAvoy



Damiano emerging from a long session of potion-making, finds his Piedmontese town deserted and occupied by an invading army, and a general looking to use Damiano's witchcraft for war. Refusing, he and his dog seek out the town's fleeing inhabitants, and his true love, Carla. But somehow, despite friendship with an angel, Damiano finds little going the way he anticipated.


I don’t recall why I picked this up. It was my first R.A. MacAvoy book, and my experience with her writing has been mixed – she writes well, but not always about things that interest me. This book should fall squarely in the ‘not interested’ group (religious, historical), and yet I bought all three books in the series, and broadly enjoyed them. I don’t know that I’ve reread them since, though. So, almost 40 years on (!), I thought I’d try them again.

This book pretty much matches my memory – it’s very well written and evocative, but I struggle to be very interested in the historical setting, and the religious element (the frequent appearances of the angel Raphael) didn’t move me. To her credit, MacAvoy plays these fairly straight – it’s an angel, but without too much fanfare, and Damiano is a devout believer, but in some ways pragmatic and down to earth.

I had much less trouble, and much greater interest, in getting through this book than L.E. Modesitt’s Imager’s Challenge, a book that on its face is a much better fit for me. Damiano witters on about this and that as much as Modesitt’s Rhennthyl, but something comes of it. It’s not musing for its own sake, but to decide or accomplish or feel something, and Damiano does all those.

The book’s not perfect. The end is rushed, and Damiano’s heart is somewhat inconstant in important and disappointing respects, but overall, it’s a pleasant, fairly enjoyable read, propelled largely by MacAvoy’s engaging prose and style.


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