In my teens Marjorie Bowen was one of my favourite authors and her historical novels read every bit as well today as they did then. I have always thought her The Third Estate one of the best romances ever written about the French Revolution. But in this series we are concerned with the occult.
Marjorie Bowen died in 1952 and this book was first published in 1909. It opens in Flanders, during the Middle Ages, with the meeting of two students who have both just dabbled a little in black magic. One of them, Theirry, is a fine, stalwart, exceptionally handsome youth; the other, Dirk, is also good-looking but of small stature and physically weak. The two enter into a solemn pact to pursue their studies of satanism and allow nothing to come between them.
However, while Theirry proves fearsome and vacillating, Dirk is determined, whatever the cost, to obtain wealth and power through the black arts; and he stops at nothing to hold Theirry to their partnership.
The two travel to Frankfort, then the seat of Melchior, the Brabant Emperor of the West, and there two young women enter the story: the beautiful Jacobea of Martzburg with whom Theirry falls desperately in love, and the equally beautiful Ysabeau, wife of the Emperor, whom she is planning to murder.
Many thrilling and hair-raising scenes ensue. Dirk uses his infernal powers to separate Theirry from Jacobea, but his evil rebounds upon himself by causing Theirry to leave him.
Years later they meet again in Rome. Dirk has become rich beyond the dreams of avarice and the most powerful man in that ancient city – with the possible exception of Ysabeau’s second husband, Balthasar of Courtrai, whom she has made Emperor. Theirry again falls under Dirk’s spell and to secure his companionship permanently, Dirk promises to make him Emperor in Balthasar’s place.
The result is a violent quarrel between Dirk and Ysabeau, who threatens to destroy him.
At last the mystery of why Dirk has risked his life and the success of his plans, in order to retain Theirry as his partner, is revealed.
The closing chapters are a great tour de force in describing the terrific battle between the powers of Good and Evil.