Anchorwick - Jeffrey E. Barlough Anchorwick is the latest installment in Jeffrey Barlough’s Western Lights series. As with previous volumes, the book stands alone and a reader doesn’t have to have read other entries to understand or enjoy this one. We do, however, get to meet the younger incarnations of Prof. Titus Tiggs and Dr. Daniel Dampe, who featured in the first book of the series, The Dark Sleeper, when they were just starting out on their careers as metaphysician and physician, respectively.

And, as with most of the other works in the series, the novel is narrated from a single point of view. In this case that of Eugene Stanley, the nephew of Prof. Christopher (Kit) Greenshields, don of Antrobus College, Salthead University, and noted expert in Aegean civilizations. Eugene is the son of a glazier who has come to the university to help his uncle organize the notes for his magnum opus (ah, to live in the days before “publish or perish” became the norm!), and to determine if he will matriculate there. While ordering his uncle’s notes one night, Eugene stumbles upon an odd lamp filled with the legendary oleum lumeriorum - the oil of the lumerii, a mythic race of magical beings. The oil allows mortals to pierce the veil between our world and a realm of the spirits. Eugene spies a vague figure who begs him to “open the portal” and set him free. Spooked, Eugene drops the lamp and the vision disappears, but he and his uncle undertake to discover the secrets of the odd oil. Their investigations lead them to the mysterious disappearance two years previous of Prof. Haygarth, who also had been pursuing investigations in this regard also. Attempting to discover Haygarth’s whereabouts and possibly track him down, Eugene is swept through the veil and finds himself trapped on the other side. There he meets a stranger who may or may not be the figure he saw in his original vision, and finds Prof. Haygarth. One of the aspects of the bleak limbo our narrator finds himself in is that time doesn’t pass, so the professor hasn’t realized that two years have passed in the mortal world. He does, though, have a possible way out of limbo, and he and Eugene manage to reopen the gate to Earth and return unharmed.

Barlough likes to have several story threads running through his novels and Anchorwick is no exception. The Hulkes of Ruffolk, earls of Anchorwick, were an ancient family that got involved in a feud with the Easterbrooks. Cursed by their enemies, the direct line died out with the unfortunate and much maligned last earl, Jeffrey, Lord Bale. Bale was reputed to be a black wizard allied with dark powers. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances two centuries earlier but it is to him that the original source of the lumerii’s oil can be traced. A surviving relative of the family, Balthasar Timothy, is encouraged by Eugene’s and Haygarth’s adventures to seek out the real story behind his ancestor’s vanishing, and it is this quest (which sweeps up Eugene after his return) that occupies the rest of the book.

Anchorwick is a good entry in the Western Lights series though I would rank it below Dark Sleeper and Strange Cargo. And for sheer creepiness and menace, The House in the High Wood surpasses them all. I don’t often feel truly horrified by what happens in a book but THitHW’s ending continues to “creep me out” every time I consider it. If you read no other Barlough book, The House is the one to peruse. As to the current book: Recommended to Barlough fans, definitely. To get Barlough at his best for newcomers, though, I’d start with one of the three books just mentioned.