Title: Curse of Two-Spirit
Author: K.B. Forrest
Cover Artist: Carmen Waters
Publisher: Devine Destinies (Extasy Books)
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Gay, Horror, Mystery, Paranormal,Ghosts
Length: 30k words, 95 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This is NOT a romance, rather a ghost story/mystery and at times pretty gruesome horror story set before a lively background of Native American lore.
The Blurb: The body is weak, but the spirit is strong. Two spirits are twice as strong.
Ray Mankiller is a Two-Spirit Native American. Two-Spirits are people whose bodies contain not just one soul, but two, usually a male and a female spirit. He has known this since he was a child, but it is only recently that the dreams have begun. In these dreams he sees the ancient past. He sees a Two-Spirit like him, but unlike his modern world, the ancient world was dangerous for a Two-Spirit who was also born of a witch. In this tortured world, Deer Tracks, the Two-Spirit of his visions, has visions of her own. She sees the death of the one she loves at the hands of a hated shaman, Lazy Duck. She knows he will stop at nothing to possess her, even though in body, she is a male. It is said that a Two-Spirit brings great power to the one he or she marries.
The visions are not enough to distract Ray from the problems he is facing in his own life. A newly hired professor of Ceramics at the University of Mississippi, he soon finds that one of the faculty members hates him and wants to destroy his chances of ever becoming tenured. He seeks shelter in the strong arms of Angus Tanner, a professor of Anthropology who is fascinated with Ray’s story…and with his body. When the tendrils of the past start to snake their way into the present in the form of a cursed figurine, Ray is faced with the most terrifying visions—only they are of the present, not the past. He must find a way to destroy the evil ghost of Lazy Duck before history repeats itself. Is he dragging Angus into a trap he himself set in another life?
The Review: The blurb pretty much sums up the book; nothing much to add to that. It’s actually two stories in one: There’s the historical part, the story of Deer Tracks, a Native American Two-Spirit who identifies as female but lives in a male body, her love interest Charging Bear, a hunter, and their adversary Lazy Duck, a painter and the tribe’s shaman. And there’s the contemporary part about Ray Mankiller, a modern-times Native American Two-Spirit, his love interest Angus Tanner, a gay African-American man who is also part Native American, and Ray’s adversary Professor Lenhetter.
Ray identifies male, but the female spirit within him is very strong. This is why Ray, even though he feels attracted to men, doesn’t see himself as a gay man–the term with which he refers to himself is hetero-gendered, a term which I’ve never encountered before, but found quite fitting in the context. Anyhow, what it amounts to is Angus and Ray bonding over fighting the ghosts of the past that haunt Ray and falling in love with each other while doing so–even though I didn’t get to see much of the latter; any sensusal contact between them was barely hinted at, if mentioned at all. But as for me, the focus of the story was more on Deer Tracks anyway and how what happened to her influenced Ray’s life in the present.
Now, I’m far from being an expert on ancient Native American culture, but I thought the historical parts well done, the village life vividly painted as I looked at it through Deer Tracks’ eyes. The concept of Two-Spirit people had been foreign to me, but I think I gained a lot of insight into that subject matter from this book. The most intense scenes happened within the historical setting, including the really ghastly and sickeningly horrific narration of how the cursed figurine which is mentioned in the blurb came into being. Also, I thought the idea of reincarnation particularly well-done here, mostly because neither Ray nor his folks freak out on the notion that he might be a reborn spirit (or rather, two, in his case)–it’s part of their culture, and they simply accept it. In that regard, Angus is a stroke of luck for Ray–Angus’s family history is full of ghost-seers and mediums, and Angus is familiar enough with Ray’s cultural background that he doesn’t bat a lash at Ray’s visions.
On the other hand, I found the characterizations weak throughout, even Ray, from whose point of view the story is told. I learned much about his visions, fears and cultural origins, but very little about him as a person. I’d have been particularly interested in how being a Two-Spirit affected him in the context of the modern world, in the perception of his environment, but nothing. He’s what he is, and then the visions and culture took over. Angus was even less worked out even though he’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across. A gay black man with Native American ancestry who comes from a family of “witches” (for lack of a better word) and is now a professor of Anthropology, specializing in ancient Native American culture? It hardly gets more complex than that. But he remained flat, merely something of a stooge for Ray. Same for the villains, Lazy Duck and Lenhetter–cardboard props rather than living, breathing beings.
Even though I found the concept of this book interesting and even though parts of it kept me riveted to the pages, I couldn’t really warm up to the story for what I perceived as lack of emotional depth in the narrative. Maybe what I criticize here was intentional on the author’s part; after all, there were several references to how Native Americans don’t think it proper to show emotion. Again, I’m not an expert on that matter.
This is certainly an unusual story both in its concept and subject matter and its protagonists. Not a romance, and definitely not for the faint at heart. Recommended with reservations.