Donde se acaba el Norte is a fascinating fantasy novel in which a man is trapped in dream state, searching for his life’s purpose.
Written in Spanish, Hugo Moreno’s historical fantasy novel Donde se acaba el Norte is a provocative tale about a man who suddenly becomes a different person, living three centuries earlier.
A librarian who dreams of becoming an author finds himself in an unknown forest, where he encounters a stranger who demands that he dive into the river if he wants help. In doing so, he loses all recollection of his identity and past. The stranger turns out to be a Franciscan friar who recognizes the man as Diego Romero, who was meant to join his religious order in New Mexico in 1665. Diego, meanwhile, believes himself to be an agnostic in the United States circa 1995. With no real recourse, though, he complies with the friar’s identification. He spends months as a novice in the friar’s order, with his memories coming back: he is Uriel, who hopes to wake up from this extended dream.
Indeed, dreams are a major theme in the novel, wherein Uriel keeps a clear record of his dreams in an attempt to understand his circumstances. His one goal is to “wake up”: he wants to return to his regular life, and to stop jumping between centuries, but he’s also seeking meaning, and hopes to awaken to the absolute truth.
Nods to other literary works come through the book’s multitude of quotes and acknowledgement of Julio Cortázar’s short story “La noche boca arriba,” which has a similar plot—a fact of which Uriel himself is aware. During Uriel’s time with the friars, he writes about his dreams in a coded notebook that he titles after Cortázar’s story. And the beautiful prose, which is flowing and flowery, makes ample use of metaphors and other rhetorical devices. The result is an obscure, complex, and stylized text whose movements complement the metaphysical themes of Uriel’s tale.
Though the story is meaningful, immersive, and inviting, its dialogue is more erratic, particularly because the seventeenth-century characters’ patterns of speech and vocabularies are too modern. Although Uriel’s culture shock is handled with dexterity, it is diminished by his easy communication with the people he encounters in the past, which strains credulity. Still, Uriel is steady in his pursuit of self-discovery, and his metaphysical voyage is both fanciful and accessible.
Donde se acaba el Norte is a complex and fascinating fantasy novel in which a man is trapped in dream state, searching for his life’s purpose.
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