Review: ‘Defense Against the Dark’ by Emily Carlin

Defense Against the Dark: A Field Guide to Protecting Yourself from Predatory Spirits, Energy Vampires, and Malevolent Magick, by Emily Carlin
published 2011 by New Page Books
ISBN 9781601631701
224 pages
Author information here.
Buy on Amazon
Copy is a review copy
Rating: 3 out of 5

About the Book: Emily Carlin compiles a rather informative list of the many kinds of dark creatures a person could possibly meet.  With humor and practicality, Carlin describes the danger levels and rarity of each creature, along with other interesting facts.  In the second half, Carlin offers advice on how to protect against, prevent, and ultimately remove such creatures.

My Thoughts: I somewhat enjoyed this book.  Let me first say that I did not request it–the option to review was offered me by the publisher, New Page Books.  Intrigued by the description of the book, I agreed, even though I’m not entirely certain I even believe in the Fae, gremlins, or other creatures along those lines that are talked about in this book.

However, that being said, I still found this to be a mostly enjoyable read (though I didn’t read it at night–that would have been begging for a nightmare).  I approve of Carlin’s approach, which can be summarized by this quote: “This book does not require you to believe.  All I ask is that you approach this subject with an open mind.”

Once I read that, I was more at ease.  Great! I thought.  She doesn’t expect me to believe!  A little more relaxed, I continued to read.  I quickly found that Carlin approaches the topic not only with that expectation in mind, but with a dash of humor and a great deal of practicality as well.  She doesn’t advocate that the reader do everything themselves.  In fact, she says that if you’re out of your depth, recognize the fact that you are in trouble and get help.  This is repeated a number of times, a tactic that I very much approve of.  Her best advice is probably this: “Better to have help and not need it than to really need help when it’s nowhere to be found.”

What I also liked was that she admits there can be a mundane explanation for some of the “bumps in the night.”  More often than not, I find that people who talk about these topics don’t want to admit that there could be a simple explanation, or a non-magical one.  But Carlin does exactly the opposite: “Always look for a mundane explanation before looking for a metaphysical one!”  Again, I approve.

As for the actual content itself, Part One is the details of the nasty creatures we could potentially meet.  Goblins, gremlins, various version of the Fae, vampires, etc., all with a description of their habits, their danger level, rarity, and ease of removal level.  Highly descriptive, I thought this was the most interesting part of Carlin’s work (but I’m slightly biased in favor of this section, as I’m an amateur mythologist).

Although I rather hate shameless plugs to an author’s other materials or organizations, I do understand them.  I don’t take any points off if an author does something like this unless it’s over the top.  But it is annoying, not just to me but to many people, and I think there should be some other solution.  I also didn’t take points off for the font that the publisher decided to use–that’s not the author’s fault.  But it can be a little difficult to read.

For the few things I do like, there are a number of things I don’t.  Most importantly–take what Carlin says with a grain of salt.  If you’re the kind of person who absolutely believes everything they read–this book is not for you.  I do not like that Carlin, in a number of places, instructs the reader to call on specific higher forces.  I don’t think this is appropriate, since the reader could be at any level of magickal learning (even a complete novice) and could have no idea what he or she is doing by calling on those forces. Granted, she does say to do your research beforehand, but it still strikes me as somewhat inappropriate, and perhaps even irresponsible, especially if the reader doesn’t know what they’re really doing in calling on those beings or forces.

Also, in the Boosting Ritual . . . granted, I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about the four elements at this stage of my learning, but I don’t think I’d like to be “flooded with the full power of nature.”  I could be wrong, but that doesn’t sound comfortable or safe to me.  I find nothing wrong with the concepts or descriptions behind the grounding and centering, shielding, or quick defensive preparation sections.

And I enjoyed most of Part One, but I had a hard time distinguishing where Carlin gets her information from–is she getting her information largely from folklore, first-hand experience, or the experiences of other people? I wouldn’t have minded some personal anecdotes if she had any.  There is a bibliography in the back of the book, but when we’re talking about giving advice on how to remove gremlins or goblins or something, I want to know if those methods have actually worked for the person who’s giving me the advice, or if they’ve only heard of it via a friend or a website.  I want to know where they’re getting the information they’re advising me to take.

While I like that Carlin tells the reader to do their research before invoking any deity or force, I don’t particularly like that she tells the reader to do this in the first place.  However, I will let this one slide, as I think this particular issue is a personal disagreement.

Overall, my advice with this book is to take it with a grain of salt.  Think about what you read.  Yes, I do like some of the things Carlin does with this.  She does emphasize to read with an open mind and that there could be mundane explanations, and she does emphasize safety.  But for every one thing I like, there is something I don’t.


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