Title: The Righteous One
Author: Neil Perry Gordon
Genre: Metaphysical Fantasy
This story explores how Moshe, an everyday Jewish cobbler, gets involved in a world of dream, ambition, and corruption, serving as the hand of Hashem against the wicked rasha who would seek to use his spiritual connections and gifts for his own enjoyment, regardless of ethics, morals, or who gets hurt in the process.
Though the second book in a series, this volume stands alone nicely, providing plenty of information on Moshe’s past and how Hashem has used him before, when he was much younger. It presents the concept of spiritual gifts without claiming any particular devotion is required, though Moshe demonstrates a persistent belief in Hashem and a longing to not disappoint his creator by how he handles the task he’s been given.
And Moshe isn’t alone in his fight against evil. The cast is full of a variety of characters, most of them older and well versed in Kabbalah, either as something they explored when they discovered they were up against a rasha or as part of their own interests. Some are younger, like the mob boss’s daughter who becomes romantically involved with the rasha’s son, but most of the main characters are Jewish, which fits a book primarily about Jewish mysticism and how it could’ve affected New York City back in the 1960s.
While older men tend to fill the pages, the book nicely features women as having a significant role in the battle, with one serving as a mole in the office of the rasha’s son while another teaches Moshe how to move about in the dream world so he can attack the rasha and take him to Gehenna, ending his reign of selfishness forever.
The story has a very realistic feel to it, with Moshe trying to go about his cobbler work despite the grander worries intersecting his life. The political atmosphere and details of how the characters are living their lives comes across as effectively accurate, though a touch breezy at times, making this a story likely to be enjoyed by historical fantasy enthusiasts as well as those who are intrigued by a fantasy system based on Jewish mysticism.
There are times when the pacing feels slow, though, and this is compounded by how often characters discuss the same topics, telling the same stories repeatedly to the point of redundancy. The book is thematically interested in politics, spirituality, and one’s place in the world, and these are explored primarily through talking, which fits, as Moshe and the rasha are both older men rather than men of action. Still, there is plenty of adventure in the pages to spice things up, particularly where the mob boss and the rasha’s son are concerned.
The metaphysical world-building is both unique and consistent, well-grounded in Kabbalah teachings and the psychological interests of the times, but the book doesn’t come across as dated or only for a certain group of people. Rather, anyone who likes a realistic political and metaphysical fantasy will likely enjoy this story. There is humor and empathy, historic flavoring, and a unique outlook on life interwoven throughout, making for a relaxed yet intriguing read.
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