The Eternal Round

Edita Bikker, The Night of Turns (Broodcomb Press, 2021).

Johan Huizinga thought the world was a game. Shakespeare called it a stage. One thing’s for sure; we are all players.

As we move backwards through time, the categories blur. Games, we find, and plays, overlap – and it all overlaps with magic.

Edith Bekker’s The Night of Turns takes us back to these times. Or, at least, it takes us away, into some semi-mystical folk realm – perhaps foreign (although its participants are all British), perhaps the past, or perhaps the post-apocalyptical future.

The realm is structured by a series of plays and games. Our protagonist joins a caravan, walking on endlessly, around and around the eternal Round.

They are stalked by something. They are watched by something. Something hides among them.

Is it the same spirit, or it is just a game?

The caravan-dwellers have their own game; a board game that they play compulsively. When they stop they take turns to play it all night.

Those who don’t play, practice with the puppets. Puppets with eerily human eyes.

Bikker’s novel, published by the Cornish small press Broodcomb, is a captivating work of folk horror. A perfect balance of uncanny elements, surprise and endearing characterisation, such that one can’t help turning the pages, even though you’re worried as to what might be there.

Reading it is like reaching your hand into a dark doorway at night. Heart-racing. Spellbinding.

As a work in the folk tradition, The Night of Turns treads some old ground. The haunted carnival, the acting and the puppetry, is a touch Carteresque. The gypsy living is reminiscent of some Philip Pullman. The modern-yet-ancient setting reminds me of Zoe Gilbert’s excellent Folk (2018).

Yet, as with the best genre works, Bikker’s own folk tale combines the old ingredients in a brand new way. Despite the familiar elements, the book feels strikingly original.

A whole world has been thought through here. We are introduced to it slowly, with mysteries unravelling to deeper mysteries, and a magical terminology laying itself out unnoticed.

You find yourself on The Night of Turns searching for the spirit-architect of the Caravan of the Owls along with Green Gwen and Hoofman, soon to return to the Great Barn… and it all feels natural, right and proper.

Even the game itself, convoluted and strange as it is, begins to make sense; begins, in fact, to give a deeper and more powerful meaning to these characters’ lives than you can find in your own.

This is true magic being worked: the spell of narrative. When you read The Night of Turns, you come out of it transformed.

There’s a whole world here, of Bikker’s creation, and it deserves to be more than a well-kept secret. I can imagine Night of Turns fan art, video games, comics. At the very least an accompanying board game; something like The Decembrists’ Illimat.

  • Joe Darlington

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s