In the Shadow of the Kogaionon by Sabina Lungeanu: Book Review

‘It was in those final days of black despair that they turned toward the heavens, seeking the help of the gods. That’s when they saw it, standing tall and proud on the peak of the Kogaionon: the sacred fir tree. Faith returned to our forefathers, for its colossal branches would provide enough fuel to last till spring.’

Sabina Lungeanu, In the Shadow of the Kogaionon 

Kogaionon is the sacred mountain of the Dacians (nowadays approximately the region of Romania), where the cave of the supreme god Zalmoxis is hidden. The ancient Dacian god of the sky, the dead, and the Mysteries, Zalmoxis taught the Dacians about immortality: ‘He taught them that bodies were coffins of the souls, which are caged birds, yearning to break out and stretch their wings.’ Every several years, human sacrifice – the ritual of the messenger – would take place in order to ensure the continued prosperity of the people.

Sabina Lungeanu’s story begins with Daos and Oroles, two young men, the best of friends, both in love with a beautiful girl named Cotiso, and both participating in the ritual of the messenger, whereby only one of them will be awarded the highest of honours – to die in the name of Zalmoxis. 

‘The Kogaionon awakens before him like a promise.’

Mythology, like a thick veil of mist, envelops this tale of brotherhood, love, and loyalty.  We follow the tale of Daos from his youth until his very old age, down the winding path of curse, love, and loss. He has a complicated and strained relationship with his father Charnabon, who has never recovered from the early death of Daos’ mother. Daos chooses to become a healer in an attempt to compensate for the inability to help his own family, however, loss follows him throughout his life. It is only in the end that the story makes a full circle and he gets a well-deserved reprieve. 

‘Terror and excitement stream through him at dizzying speed. Blood rushes unchallenged through his veins. He feels gloriously alive and more than a little wobbly. The forest cradling his back does little to steady him. It won’t be long now before the first rooster calls slash the air with an urgency and certitude that can only herald the dawn. The longest day of the year seems uncommonly eager to push aside the night, or else his nerves are reaching a breaking point.’

In the Shadow of the Kogaionon is a wonderfully exciting and poetic journey, and if you like mythology, adventure, lyrical writing, and a dash of romance, you will definitely be in for a treat!

Also, since it’s the Halloween season, you can’s miss out on Lungeanu’s gothic novel Hiraeth and you can check out the review here

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