Fantastica Daily Review of Enemy Glory

This interview originally appeared in the now defunct Fantastica Daily on February 2, 2001. It is posted here by kind permission of Eva Wojcik-Obert.

Enemy Glory by Karen Michalson
Reviewed by Eva Wojcik-Obert

“Try to keep all world energy, everywhere, flowing in one direction and your efforts will burst and fail into enemy glory. Send energy in one direction long enough and it will rebound against you and compel you to face your opposing force. Extreme goodness fetches extreme evil and extreme evil rebounds with goodness and so it goes back and forth until the cows come home to roost.”

In Enemy Glory, Karen Michalson neatly flays the institutions of government, academia, and religion via the fantasy world adventures of a would-be-as-bad-as-he-can-be young cad, Llewelyn. The problem with Llewelyn is that he can’t shake his positive vibes for the folks with whom he briefly experienced a certain sort of blissful home-life, which nurtured his emotionally- and intellectually-starved soul: Mirand, Walworth, Caethne, and Baniff. Did this little group just use and abuse our boy for their own ends, then cast him off like so much refuse or not? Michalson cunningly makes this not as easy a question to answer, as it might seem.

Furthermore, even as an evil priest of Hecate, Llewelyn just can’t quite come off as a completely hardhearted bastard. Not that he doesn’t work at being a manipulative bully while imprisoned in a monastery dedicated to evil. His bad-ass attitude is tempered by his sensitivity to nature, music, and beauty, and his own self-awareness. But that’s okay by me, because it results in a complex, intelligent, yet still wanting-to-be-a-trusting-personality, whose desire for positive relationships just refuses to be killed off despite his best efforts — so far. And the characters Llewelyn can’t bring himself to care about, such as Cristo, Mirra and the war moron-well, they’re types readers have encountered in real life and can’t care about either. Part of the enjoyment of reading Enemy Glory is that nothing is quite what it seems for either Llewelyn or the reader. What’s the score, really? is the question that continually arises in this deftly written narrative of a young man stating his version of events for his judge/executioner/friend. The result is a scorching indictment of all the organized social institutions with which Llewelyn has had contact.

Within the pages of Enemy Glory, I think there really is something for everyone who has ever questioned the morality of authoritarian institutions and those who run them — churches, schools, governments, armies, the IRS, etc. If you’re taken in by the purity of those intellectual ivory towers, think again. Michalson effectively smashes carefully crafted illusions with resounding clarity and reality. We’ve all met people like these double-talking totalitarians, military leaders, teachers, and priests — and some of us are these people. One has to wonder just how much of Llewelyn’s experiences are based on Michalson’s own. That’s her business, but Llewelyn is our business since he’s in the public realm, so to speak, and magic and illusions aside, his world of human behavior is very much alive and well in our own messy reality. The shots at academia are right on target with a cutting portrait of a the monastery school where students attempt to cull praise by parroting the words of others, read critics/instructors, instead of their own thoughts. The priest/scholar El’s egocentricity is alive and well in institutions of higher learning all across America. And his students’ behaviors are equally realistic. It isn’t a pretty picture of education, but it’s startling in its methodically drawn accuracy.

Through Llewelyn’s observant, searching viewpoint, Michalson’s imaginary world blooms with vibrant colors, smells, textures, sounds, and tastes. Our hero is alive to his environment. Yet, if he’s going to survive, he needs, and gets, a serious reality check, or two, or three, in order to learn the ways of the world. Llewelyn is a survivor with more than his share of intelligence, a touch of good luck, bad luck, and a strong desire for life itself motivating him. And despite the increasing bitterness of his tone, one can’t help but wonder what secrets are hidden deep within the recesses of his heart. Why does he risk certain death to travel to the forbidden North in search of a young woman whom he’s met only in dreams? What sort of love can he hope for from this Isulde of the night? Hopefully Karen Michalson will let us in on THAT in the next installment of Llewelyn’s adventures — she damn well better! Enemy Glory is a thoughtfully crafted piece of language art that demands to be devoured, delectable piece by delectable piece. This novel isn’t for speed reading fanatics, but for those wanting some serious questions and issues to mull over while enjoying a multitude of unusual images and some convincingly manipulative characters. It’s a great book for igniting discussions about tough issues. Michalson demands the engagement of your intellect when you enter her intensely enjoyable world that mirrors ours in sooo many ways. Be careful you aren’t fooled by the illusions… wherever you encounter them.