An apparently young Englishman who claims to be 274 years of age approaches an American anthropologist in modern Bangkok, Thailand. Though the scholar cannot believe this assertion, the Englishman displays his torso covered with magickal tattoos, and then demonstrates inexplicable supernatural powers by literally vanishing before the scholar’s eyes. He leaves behind a flash-drive that contains his story. According to his account, John Nathaniel Perch, the purported author, was born in 1736 at Ayutthaya, the capital city of the mysterious Far Eastern kingdom then called Siam.
The novel is John’s story told in third person. In its heyday the fabulous city of Ayutthaya, built on a river island, boasts 360 gold-covered stupa spires, an immense royal palace for the divine King of Siam, and an adjacent palace just for the sacred white elephants. Though considered a "hidden and forbidden" kingdom, the capital Ayutthaya also hosts communities of Europeans who represent the various Occidental East India Companies. Unknown to John's birth mother, the native women of the household conduct a traditional rite to appease a spirit of infant mortality called the Purchasing Mother. The rite seems to be successful, however it is only partly so…
John grows up to become a self-indulgent and unmotivated young man. After his mother Cynthia is widowed, rather than return to England, she chooses to marry the Frenchman, Bruno Therieux, a childhood friend who has always adored her. Bruno, who has tutored John and long been a friend an mentor, now becomes his stepfather. When an old friend from Paris, now Father Titus of the Jesuits visits on his way to China, ripples are set in motion that willlead to the destruction of the city. Beset by the Purchasing Mother that has returned for him despite his maturity, John loses his temper with Bruno and becomes alienated, much to the distress of both men.
Moving from his parents’ house, the young man lives in a brothel and becomes addicted to opium. The persistent demon returns stronger than ever seeking to claim him after all. His only hope lies in acquiring magickal tattoos that cover his entire body, believed to provide extraordinary powers. So he undergoes the ordeal of acquiring the “sua yantra” and is transformed. In his case, the ability to become invisible and the invulnerability promised prove surprisingly real, and he is able to see into the animistic Spirit World of the ancient native culture. Persuaded to move back into his parents’ home as the final Burmese invasion closes in, John marries a Chinese woman named Jao Jing-li whom he that he truly loves. Soon she become pregnant with his child.
When the Burmese besiege the city in a final conquest, John helps his stepfather in a valiant attempt to rescue an elderly royal friend who lives on the island, and is captured by the invading army. John’s wife leaves the compound in search of him, and is captured by the Brumese. In a prison camp for slaves Jing-li dies giving birth to twins, the second of which survives. Other women manage to get the child out of the camp into safe hands.
Even as the city is being annihilated in 1767, the Burmese must withdraw because the Chinese Emperor has invaded their own kingdom from the north. As John is marched towards slavery in Burma among thousands of Siamese captives, he looks for an opportunity to use his powers in order to liberate his fellow slaves. At last the Purchasing Mother appears to him and instead of loathing, he views her with compassion as a tragic figure. He realizes that she may not be so evil after all. She urges him to do what he can for his fellow captives. He succeeds by the full employ of his powers and turns the slavers’ weapons against them, though the experience becomes a tortured memory thereafter.John’s whereabouts remain unknown to his agonized parents, who at last reluctantly plan to depart from Ayutthaya forever. Finally he leaves them a letter and makes his survival known to them, with a promise that after they return to Europe he will visit them when his own young son is old enough for such a journey. He survives into the present day and decides that he must tell his extraordinary tale.
(For more concerning this extraordinary novel I began to draft 25 years ago + ro read a FREE sample, please click HERE.)