As a follower of the Visionary Fiction Alliance, I enjoy learning about new authors and books that, like the 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles series, address themes of expanding human consciousness. Iva Kenaz is a lovely writer from the Czech Republic who bravely writes in English about witches, fauns, and The Goddess Within. Here is my review of her second book in a series.
Iva Kenaz’ The Goddess Within is a great testimony that the genre of Visionary Fiction is flourishing around the world, and how fiction is becoming more sophisticated in examining spiritual and philosophical themes. The novel is multi-layered in what it ambitiously explores: there’s a charming coming of age story, an environmental cautionary tale, a celebration of the Goddess in the feminine realm, a fascinating use of Sacred Geometry symbology in the storytelling and visuals, and a double world fantasy where the natural world is just as magical as the spirit world. The combination of these elements, though rarely didactic, serves to unfold a tale of a young woman entering into maturity as a physical/sexual human and attaining a higher level of spiritual consciousness.
The saving grace of current Visionary Fiction releases is elegantly structured plots and characters that aren’t afraid of terrible conflicts and dark situations. Berka, the main character of the novel, experiences self-doubt, stubbornness, pain, and terror; the loss and mystery of her parents grounds the book in psychological reality. The biased tensions and distrust between Berka’s family, the predatory humans entering her territory, and the spirits she discovers but who do not accept her, could easily reflect the cultural tensions in the world right now. Concurrent with the darkness is a shimmering adoration of Nature and its precious magical properties. I found myself reading slowly, luxuriating in the book’s worlds, even when the story picked up excitement and speed. I am not surprised that Iva Kenaz has a background in film, for the book unfolds cinematically.
The Goddess Within lives in a place between Young Adult and adult fiction. The coming of age story has greater innocence and teasing slowness than most racier American YA books. This works appropriately with the sensitivity to the divine in nature and human consciousness. Berka marvels equally over her first cup of wine as the spirit power in a tree. If the book can be called Visionary YA fiction, then its adolescent charms are not shallow, and its depth of meaning is very accessible. Berka’s doubts and recklessness may be around shifting planes of existence, but they are also the self-esteem and impulse control issues of a teen. Her problem with the mysterious background of her parents leads to peeling back layers and layers of history in the spirit world, but it also reflects an adolescent’s psychological development in seeing one’s parents as more human at times, and more alien at others. J.K. Rowling pulls off this blend of magical conflicts and real adolescent problems, but where the Harry Potter series feels contemporary and familiar, The Goddess Within has a lovely, far-off old European sheen to it.
In fact, the appearance of old European mythical beings such as fauns, nymphs, and faeries gives the novel a primordial, archetypal flavor, but more grounded and shadowed than a world like Narnia. Sara Maitland’s Gossip from the Forest discusses the roots of European fairy tale lying in the variety of old, natural forests in England and Scandinavia. Iva Kenaz was influenced by The Secret History of the Czech Lands, and her work explores these Bohemian legends and landscapes. Berka’s name refers to ancient birch trees; fauns and nymphs hold mating revels in the woods. Great power in The Goddess Within is attained from Nature, and this aspect of the novel deepens its world. I love the use of Sacred Geometry and the continual references to names and meanings of these symbols, which also add a gravitas to the spiritual component of the work. The Goddess Within is a beautiful example of today’s Visionary Fiction.