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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Ekstasis: The Return of the Sovereign Heart by M. I. Dugast is a metaphysical fiction novel that revolves around two primary main characters who embody various spiritual incarnations in search of love, healing, and divine connection, and is the first book in The Ekstasis Trilogy. David is a broken man, disconnected by grief from the physical world and from a void of faith in spiritual life he does not believe in. Mona is tightly woven into the fabric of the spiritual world, but out of reach from David who can barely comprehend what he is destined to know, and to be. They are both of this world and of a dimension most cannot or refuse to see. The book is written from multiple points of view as a result of the metaphysical elements of reincarnation, and existence beyond any one human body. Therefore, the point of view characters are sometimes the same, simply in an alternate form. Between the Earthly storyline[s] and the spiritual fabric are the journeys of discovery that are not always in a linear motion, although there is firm continuity between David and Mona 'then' and who or what they are in the versions of themselves we meet. It is the odyssey to join David, Mona, their incarnations, the Elders, and a diverse divine network that are the crux of Dugast's character-driven plot.
M. I. Dugast covers a lot of terrain in this first entry into her Ekstasis Trilogy, which is to be expected since The Return of the Sovereign Heart is over 800 pages long. It is not a light read, an easy read, or a comfortable read, but it is a good read. I had to take notes initially because the story jumps around a lot, sometimes shifting to two to three point-of-view characters and scenes in the span of a single page. The writing style isn't as polished as some readers will expect but, at the beginning at least, it works in tandem with the more disturbing worldly elements which are extremely dark. As the novel progresses, the worldly elements are also quite beautiful, with a particular scene where loved ones are reunited unexpectedly through the work of a shaman being a standout. Another is when a reincarnation as a dolphin is described and the meaning of the book's title is fully realized. Dugast writes, “A sleek undulation of her body and a flap of her tail propelled her forward, and she torpedoed through the silken waters, reveling in pure bliss. Ekstasis.” This is a really good book that is worth a read for those who can appreciate the complexities of a hyper-dimensional spiritual journey, as well as for those who are new to the genre but are looking for something heavy to get lost in. A surprising new take on the Adam and Eve concept which is really, really deep. Recommended.