What are witches like?


Madeleine Nakamura

Canis Major Books 2023


Author Madeleine Nakamura’s science fiction thriller “Cursebreakers,” embarks on a “mind bending” battle between magicians, witches, medical professionals and the military in the year 3016. All of the drama in this novel unfolds in a place called Astrum.

 … an impressive cast of characters in this action-packed thriller …

The narrative is related by Adrian Desfourneaux. Fourteen years prior to this story, he worked as lead medical researcher at the Philidor solarium where he attempted to cure his chronic patients with his magic powers. He failed: Some patients died while others went into a coma. He was arrested by the “witchfinders” and put on trial (a witch is said to use power to cause harm while a magician would not). He is acquitted and becomes a professor of magic at the Pharmakeia, a huge medical complex.

The plot develops when a Vigil, a member of the military, Gennady Richter, asks Desfourneaux for help. He explains that many of his “commissariat” from his former unit have fallen ill and he thinks his former unit captain is responsible. The symptoms are identical to those of Desfourneaux’s patients. Desfourneaux asks, “You think your old captain is somehow rendering your former unit comatose?” Richter says some of the ill are also Pharmakeia students.

As the truth unravels, Desfourneaux attempts to convince his healer, Dr. Malise Tyrrhena, and his keeper, Casmir Leynault, that Vigil Captain Covier and some medical academics were involved in injecting “mind magic” into students and military soldiers. The military with magic powers would be capable of overthrowing the existing government.

But no one believes Desfourneaux when he divulges his suspicions because he suffers from Daimoniac, or insanity, in which he is identified as a “madman.” His supernatural powers vacillate between manic and depression.

Meanwhile, as more patients die from the “magic mind bending” therapy, Desfourneaux and Richter develop an unusual and combative alliance and to prove their theory.

Nakamura has created an impressive cast of characters in this action-packed thriller, including Richter’s sister who is a “witchfinder,” the “perfects” who run the city, and the rouge doctors who are co-conspirators with the military. It’s all weird, but definitely worth the read, even for those not usually drawn to science fiction.