Alexis Masters' The Giuliana Legacy fits snugly into the new fiction genre dubbed "visionary fiction." Along with the works of such authors as Deepak Chopra, Starhawk, and James Redfield, The Giuliana Legacy helps define this fledgling category. As writer Elizabeth Cunningham (Daughter of the Shining Isles, The Return of the Goddess) explains on visionaryfiction.com, a now-defunct web site devoted to the genre,
"Put simply, writers of visionary fiction have a vision that may arise from their personal experience but also transcends it. A vision or question takes hold of them, and, to come to terms with it, they have to write a novel - which is not unlike beginning a seemingly impossible quest in a fairytale or wrestling with an angel as Jacob did in the Bible. There is an element of risk, risk of failure, and most of all, the risk of being changed. If the writer succeeds, she will be changed in ways she could not have predicted - and so will the reader."
So, then, The Giuliana Legacy. The story of a young woman's awakening to the spiritual legacy of her ancestors, this debut novel succeeds splendidly in doing exactly what a work of visionary fiction should, by Cunningham's definition -- inspire the reader to consider and enter (if only for a time) the author's transcendent vision.
Free-spirited Julia Giardani finds herself alone and in mourning after her elderly father's death in a suspicious fire. In his honor and to help heal her own fresh grief, she decides to leave the familiarity of her home in Berkeley, California, to learn more about the matrilineal family "legacy" her father had recently begun trying to awaken in her. Armed with a vague treasure map of postcards and the knowledge that her birthright is spiritual, possibly psychic, in nature, Julia leaves behind her comfortable but somehow empty life when she boards a plane bound for the beguiling shores of Cyprus.
While wading in the waters of a certain Cyprian beach, Julia has an inspiring vision of boundless joy and love. That experience, along with the encouragement of an exiled Russian parapsychologist and would-be monastic, deepens her resolve to ferret out the location of the inheritance of which her father spoke. Trying to rein in her growing attraction to Andrei Anatolin, Julia gleans from him intriguing insights into her burgeoning abilities. What Julia doesn't know is that there are those who would gladly destroy her to obtain that which she seeks. The mysterious Parisienne Madame Racine, an old friend of both Julia and Andrei's parents, is marshalling the powers of a World War II psychic brain trust to come to Julia's aid against another old acquaintance-turned-nemesis: the Cold War KGB general, her father's murderer -- Gregor Danilenko. Julia moves on to Tuscany in her quest for her ancestral home, finding it at last in an initially unwelcoming village off the beaten tourist track. There she will finally be able to come into her inheritance fully, but only if she and her allies can stop the powerful Danilenko from defiling and debasing the Giuliana Legacy.
Masters, a scholar of comparative religion and feminist theology, fuses aspects of ancient Greek religion, Goddess spirituality and Raja Yoga to create the Giardani family's fictional spiritual tradition. Indeed, even those unfamiliar with much beyond the Judeo-Christian religious world will spot elements from a broad range of belief systems. The message of joyous love that the Giuliana legacy encompasses is an inspiring one even for skeptical readers. Added bonus: those who delight in rich evocations of sunny foreign climes will seriously consider booking their next vacations to the Mediterranean after experiencing Masters' skillful conjuring of both Cyprus and the Tuscan countryside.