Equinox by David Towsey serves up a macabre tale of murder and witches. There are twists and turns a plenty and a great central mystery. Beyond that is one of the most audacious and mind-bending premises I’ve ever read.
What Is Equinox by David Towsey?
We’re used to stories where people have alter-egos. We’ve had tales where our protagonists unwillingly turn into a monster at night. In Equinox our heroes are two entirely different people in the same body. I’m pretty sure that’s been done before too. I have never encountered a world where everybody in the book has a daytime and night-time personality, entirely distinct from one another. So distinct that the night prisons empty out in the mornings because the daytime people are completely innocent of the crimes their nocturnal counterparts perpetrated.
The novel opens narrated by Christophor Morden; King’s Inspector. A witchfinder. His day brother, Alexsander, is a musician. When Christophor is sent south to follow up on a grisly supernatural occurrence, Alexsander has no choice but to go with him.
Towsey’s device sets up a curious interaction between day and night characters. Or almost a non-interaction. The people Alexsander meets will never be met by Christophor. Yet Christophor’s actions might have a profound effect on Alexsander and his friends. The reverse is also true.
Everybody in Towsey’s world has a day/night-sister/brother. The day-people can never meet the night-people. Transition is aided and abetted by sleep and the chewing of a herb. Memories transition too, and part of Christophor’s account also tells us what his brother did in the day. Alexsander’s actions are filtered through the lens of Christophor’s prejudices against his brother’s actions and associates.
Partway through the novel, the narration, and the focus of the investigation shift. We are now given Alexsander’s perspective of the build-up to the titular Autumn Equinox. A time when witches are at their strongest. Now we see Alexsander unfiltered and gain a different perspective on Christophor’s motives and decisions.
Leaving the peculiar dual personalities aside, the novel takes place in a realistic but superstitious world based on 18th-century Europe. The accounts in the novel are date-stamped “1721,” though there is no obvious comparison with any real-world events or locations.
Why Read Equinox?
If you read a book this year with a premise as original as Equinox, I’d be very surprised. Even without his peculiar premise, David Towsey treats us to a quality gothic horror, filled with some great witchy shenanigans served with lashings of gruesome and weird.
Christophor and Alexsander’s escapades in trying to prevent a major catastrophe are compelling. They’d make a good duo, though, of course, they never share screen time together. (This isn’t quite true, but I’ll let you discover why!)
Impressed as I was by the dual world-building, I wasn’t wholly convinced it worked as a storytelling device. I sometimes found it hard to remember who was who. There isn’t a huge cast of characters in the book, but of course, for every physical body in the book, there are two personalities. Keeping track in which sphere they lived or which alter-ego they belonged to, was sometimes tricky.
It’s difficult to say whether the mystery would be as good in a more straightforward universe. Possibly not. Some of the hidden information is hidden because not all of the pieces of the jigsaw are available to both detectives. Sometimes, only the differing perspectives of the brothers Morden were what allowed them to piece together the clues.
Despite, occasionally, having to riffle back through the pages to check where we’d previously encountered a particular character, I very much enjoyed Equinox. It has a great central mystery, filled with a host of compelling and entertaining characters. The day vs night split further elevates the tale from interesting gothic horror to a highly original and innovative work of fantasy horror.
If you enjoyed this book do check out my other reviews, here.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.