Joshua Bane and the Five Watchtowers: The Book of Light

The incredible first book of the ‘Joshua Bane’ series by Jonathan A. Cerruto

We are in Trisna. The day is about to begin. A woman we don’t know anything about is giving birth. As soon as the boy is out of his mother’s womb, the guards of King Gabriel, the ruler of Trisna, bang on the door, asking to enter. Despite the exhaustion, the woman raises her hand, ready to evoke and make use of her powers. She is the Keeper of the Seals, a powerful but complicated figure of the court. her position forbids her from having babies, something she clearly disregarded, because she went on and had a baby with a Medicadum, a palace staffer in charge of wellbeing. On the other side of the door, though, along with the guards there is also Nonna (nana) Betty, who is King Gabriel and the Keeper’s mother. They take the baby and the keeper is brought to jail, where she starts writing on the walls until nighttime, when she is summoned by King Gabriel.

What his sister did is absolutely unqualifiable, but she is the King’s sister after all. So the boy is taken by Queen Eva and the King to be raised as their own, while the King’s sister is banned from Trisna for the rest of her life. Before leaving the reign, though, she puts a curse on the royal household.

She is transported to the Dark Land, where, as the name suggests, there is nothing – no sun, no vegetation, barely any water – and finds shelter in a cave. The night passes somehow, and the next day she receives a visit. The person is a copy of herself, and that leaves her puzzled. The person in front of her is a doppelgänger that her mind created years before. Her Spectrums (her magic powers) are gone, but the doppelgänger explains that magic can’t be ripped off, the person can only be tricked into thinking that they don’t have their Spectrums anymore but it’s not like that. Besides, the doppelgänger literally planted a plan b inside the Keeper, right under her skin. Trust me, says the doppelgänger, drink this and your powers will be restored. Not completely sure, she takes a weird concoction, dies but soon after she is born again, oozing a dark substance, the same that she oozed when she gave birth. This is your real Spectrums, says the doppelgänger with a big smile. She can finally work out her comeback strategy and take her revenge. It will take her 11 months to release the dark souls trapped in the Dark Land, but once she is done, she has an army at her disposal.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, though, and the Keeper can be patient. She plans the attack on the day Queen Eva is giving birth to her twins. It’s pure chaos: no one was expecting that, especially not on such a joyful occasion. After a bloody and cruel battle, using a magical spell, King Gabriel manages to send Nonna Betty, the twins and Celsius, his sister’s boy, away, saving them from her fury.

In a final attempt to stop her, the King sacrifices himself and the Five Stones on his sword, the ones he’s the keeper of, fly away.

The twins are named Joshua and Ashley. They end up at Childs Hill, an orphanage and the most miserable of places. Joshua’s situation is made even more miserable by the fact that, after a brief permanence, Ashley disappears, her fate unknown.

Time goes by and Joshua grows up, studies, gets a job, and makes a career. He’s a young, talented man who lives in London and has a nice apartment and some good friends. His past, as painful as it is, is behind him, and, most of all, he has no recollection of Trisna, or magic, or anything even remotely connected to it. One night, though, Keira, the magic mount of the King, takes Joshua to his island, Kroyden, and tells him that She is coming back and he has to fight Her. Who’s coming back? Is the first question Joshua asks. There is a book, Croydon continues, the Boom of Light, that the king scribbled with notes and letters. If Joshua wants to find answers and have a chance to defeat Her, he has to find it. He still has a million questions, but there is no time, because Joshua is abruptly woken up. He is in London and Nicky, a friend and co-worker, is looking at him, wondering if everything’s ok. Joshua says that yes, everything’s fine. He checks his phone and realises that the battery is almost drained. So, while looking for a charger, he finds a golden key that emanates a strong wave of energy. There is only one place where that key can open a door: Villa Bane. He has to go there and check himself. While driving out of London, he gets stuck on the M25, the creature stopping him a tall man with no facial features, two big white eyes, and a black substance that oozes out of his nostrils. Even if he doesn’t know, She sent him.

Joshua arrives at Villa Bane, where spiderwebs and dust dominate the landscape, and is desperate for his Nonna’s help. She sends it to him in the form of a book. When Joshua finds it, he starts reading it. In the last page, in an entry more recent than the rest of notes, there are the name of two places, one in Rome and one in Brazil. Joshua starts with Rome. There he will find out that Nonna had been in Rome too. But why? He doesn’t know, but he finds out a bit more about his mother: her name was Eva, she was a soldier of the Royal Army, a sword master, and she also was a healer, a person who, only by placing her hands on someone healed them immediately. But She was jealous and wanted to be in Eva’s shoes, so She tried all She could to keep Eva and Gabriel apart, clearly with no success.

Then, all of a sudden, Joshua finds himself in front of Villa Borghese. How did he get there and why or how he needs to carry on is kind of a mystery. He looks around, at loss for ideas, but there is a small hint, a clock, that marks the time very loudly and gets his full attention. The clock opens and Joshua, against his better judgment, gets into it. It’s his best decision: inside, it’s like a house, with rooms and corridors, and what he finds is astonishing. Joshua finally finds the Book of Light, and he manages to grab it before running back, finding himself no longer in the pendulum but in the lift of his London apartment.

This is the beginning of another set of twisted events that will continue, page after page, until the epic final : unbeknown to Joshua, Ashley is alive and wakes up, her exact location unknown.

This book is as dense as any good fantasy book can be. Imaginative, rich of descriptions and strongly penned characters, the story is eventful to say the least. Events follow each other with a good pace and a skilful balance. There are times when the narrative is slowed down by the wordy descriptions, and, in my opinion, the jumps in time, space and different worlds can be refined, giving each of them the attention and care they deserve. But altogether it’s a good job! It’s full of good, relatable characters and feelings, the main character is openly gay (always a plus despite all the Pride months and the gay right movements) and, last but not least, this book is full of magic, something we so desperately need in everyday life.

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