23 July, 2015

Witchcraft Couture by Katarina West Review!

Oscar Pellegrini is a talented fashion designer with a deadly enemy: his own critical mind. He destroys much of what he designs and has been drifting for years, gradually retreating from the fashion business he loves but holding on to his dreams of success. 

A chance meeting with a former girlfriend triggers a creative crisis so deep that Oscar escapes to Russia, where he drinks and despairs like never before. Just when he thinks he has lost everything he discovers a magical machine that turns ordinary outfits into irresistible sartorial triumphs. Oscar takes the machine back to Italy – and before he knows it, he has become famous for his designs, and celebrities and socialites are fighting to be first to wear his gorgeous garments. 

But the happily-ever-after ending for the fashion messiah turns into a nightmare when his dresses acquire a life of their own, gaining energy and evil as time goes on. Haunted by his creations, a dark secret he is no longer able to hide, Oscar finds himself fighting for his life and sanity, and searching for the answer to a question he never knew existed. 

Is there such a thing as stolen genius, and if there is, can it turn against the very person who stole it?

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Katarina West is a novelist, journalist and the author of Witchcraft Couture, a fantasy novel about a fashion designer who becomes an overnight success thanks to magic.

She was born in Finland, has studied in London and Florence – where she completed a doctorate in political science and published a book based on it – and now lives in an old, isolated farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son, and a German ghost. (Yes, you might hear some German murmured on a moonlit November’s night…)

Katarina is currently working on a new novel – and, writing and country life permitting, tries to read anything and everything well-written that comes into her hands.

Read a Sample Chapter

In the beginning was magic, and magic was all that there was. Before my longing for genius, before genius was invented, before fashion and Paris and black lace dinner gowns, magic was alive in the forests of the North. Before reason began to overshadow religion, before factory chimneys coloured city skylines in grime and charcoal grey, and steam trains puffed their way through honey-coloured fields and dark woodlands; before the Bastille was besieged, the Titanic sank, and the atom bomb was invented – yes, before much of anything, up there in the North, between the two seas, where the earth was arid, the days were short and people silent, magic ruled the world.
Two kingdoms flourished, Kalevala and Northland, one on the current Finnish-Russian border, the other on the snowy plains of Lapland, and their rivalry was the stuff of legend and romance, the kind that came into being by the crackling fire during long winter evenings, when the wind was howling in the corners.
Back then, everything was different. This was not the era of reality shows and low-cost flights, but of long-bearded wizards and heroic bards who sang their enemies into perdition, and instead of blogs and tweets you had spirits and spells of every imaginable variety, and all the other makings of a timeless epic: adventures, battles, kidnappings, bloody weddings.
In the heart of this shamanistic set-up stood not a king or a warrior, or a princess with the face of Helen of Troy and the rump of Jennifer Lopez, or a great dark force whose name couldn't even be uttered. No, the leading role belonged to a magic mill so formidable that it was something not of this world, something mankind had never seen before.
Its name was Sampo and it was the talisman of talismans, because somehow it made money (or success, or whatever you wanted) out of nothing. All you had to do was to put an object inside it, and the Sampo was set in motion. After grinding your rubbish, after some wheezing and vibrating – and some hocus-pocus and abracadabra – and a concluding thud, it spit your milk and honey out, like a cash dispenser gone crazy, so that whoever possessed it was the richest, most powerful and goddam luckiest person in the world.
Everyone coveted it. Nations and heroes perished because of it.
Years passed, metamorphosing into decades and centuries. Napoleon escaped from Elba and Darwin set off on his five-year voyage on the Beagle and Van Gogh cut his ear off, and the Bolsheviks shot their tsar, and millions died in the trenches, and Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt shook hands in Yalta, and Dior dressed his women like lollipop-pink candies in wasp waists and stiffened skirts, and man set foot on the moon for the first time, and Elvis asked millions of women to love him tender, and life, in short, went on. Hardly anyone asked what had happened to the Sampo – even if in the villages of the North rumours circulated about it being hidden and forever lost to the modern world.
But the Sampo wasn't lost. Up there in the cold, hidden in the shadowy silence of an old forest, behind the rocks and the ferns, perched the biggest jackpot of the bygone world, covered in moss, forgotten yet functioning, waiting for its taker.
I have never believed in the power of magic – let alone stories, and much less folk stories coming from the back of beyond.
But then the Sampo entered my life.
And that's where my story begins.
It all began last month when I spotted a redheaded woman wearing a black dress in a boutique opening party in St. Petersburg, Russia, and that moment changed my life.
To the casual eye it was just a dress, and there was nothing visibly striking or particular in it. It was the quintessential little black dress, with an off-the-shoulder neckline, short cap sleeves and an ankle-length skirt.
Yet it took my breath away. I had never seen anything like it in my life before. There was something in it that went beyond ordinary craftsmanship and expertise, something unworldly and hypnotic, which couldn't be described. And the most amazing thing was that it was shining, and its shine radiated all around, so that the woman wearing it was shining too, and her milky skin glowed as if her body was illuminated from within.
Spotting it, I became motionless. I felt butterflies in my stomach, and a pang of jealousy in my heart, for someone had created this outfit, and it hadn't been me. I knew that I wouldn't rest till I had touched it, turned it inside out, and unravelled its mystery.
That was one June evening a month ago, when it all began.
 My Review
So Oscar is a fashion designer who somehow, like what often happens to a writer, has a creativity block. People feel sorry for him so he works at a fashion house and kind of just skates by everyday, not really creating anything new and just kind of buries himself in alcohol. He is in Russia at a party and spots a woman in a black dress and she glows...just glows and everyone is drawn to her. Oscar is intrigued to get to know her and her secrets. 
His quest to find her leads him to a machine, called Sampo, looks like a small refrigerator, yes a refrigerator...crazy huh?  I thought so too, Legend has it that it can create riches beyond your wildest dreams, for Oscar all he has to do is put an article of clothing in it and it transforms into something that everyone wants. A gorgeous item, coveted by all who see it.
Sounds great right? Well Oscar thought so too, but he found that the more he used it the more he had to keep it secret and caused him numerous problems. He lives with his mother in a mansion, Villa Marisa in Italy, that was previously the home of the deceased fashion designer Marisa Marchetti, whose company he currently works for. The more time that goes by and the more successful Oscar becomes, the more paranoid and insecure he gets, as the clothes give him bad vibes and feel evil or is it all in his head? He constantly has to keep this machine a secret, but at some point the secret gets out and that is things get really interesting.
The characters in this story are interesting, there is Oscar himself, who I think is a bit off, a crazy ex girlfriend, a very strange mother and his best friend Ben, also a co worker. To me this story was very Faustian in nature, sell your soul for success. Of course this is a fantasy novel, written with all the knowledge that the author possesses about the fashion industry. I was a bit skeptical at first but I did really enjoy the story. I liked the author's descriptive writing, kept me turning the pages for sure. 
I received a paperback copy of the book and was not monetarily compensated for my review.

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