Review The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

The Silver Witch is a lovely story. Set in Brecon Beacons it features two women a millennium apart with a story that is told between them. I really liked this premise, Tilda is the modern lead a young woman with albinism, widowed dealing with the stress and trauma of losing her husband in a road traffic accident. Her historical counterpart is Seren, witch and seer for the Prince Brynach and his followers on the crannog.

This novel really is about Tilda’s recovery, at the beginning she is raw from her loss and embarking upon this new life, the one that she should have been starting with Mat. She is incredibly fragile, she seems unable to look after herself and when strange things start happening to her it does feel like this woman may be about to breakdown.

Seren on the other hand is an amazing character of depth and strength who never falters in her actions she can see what other people are doing and she does her best to steer the Prince to understand and to avoid disasters.

image002As the novel unfolds it becomes clear that Tilda and Seren are linked, the true nature of the link is explored with a couple of red herrings along the way. I have to say I thought I had sussed everything out and was pleasantly surprised when things got twisted towards the end. This is a book about women and the power they possess. Tilda’s journey from rock bottom to capable is a joy, I loved the way she wanted to work things out for herself, that yes there is a love interest in Dylan but that Tilda regularly takes herself off alone to work things out because that is the best way for her.

Where Seren and Tilda felt quite real to me, the male characters at times didn’t feel as detailed, they were there but not quite in focus. Some of the historical characters felt like thumb nail sketches and I would have liked more details about Wenna and Nesta. This may be down to the choice of writing Tilda in third person present tense and Seren in first person present as a reader we live within Seren and can’t understand characters she interacts with with the same detachment that we can in Tilda’s segments.

Overall I thought the novel hung together well, the pacing felt quite staid for the first half and there times I was a bit frustrated with Tilda constantly going out for runs. That said it’s a great book, It kept me reading and I really wanted to know how everything was going to end. It’s a perfect read for a winter afternoon with a large mug of tea and a few biscuits.

The Winter Witch is published by Corsair.

Jane’s Great Re-Read: Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett – a review

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Carpe Jugulum is the last of the first wave of witches novels.  This time GRanny and the rest of the Lancre coven are faced with invading vampires from Uberwald.

017a31d85ebdea8b7795cde95b6333ae7327c5f88bThere are now four witches in Lancre, Granny, Nanny Magrat and Agnes but covens work best with three, you know: the maiden, the mother and the other one.  A lot of this novel is about how roles change over time and what its like to feel out of place in the world.  Magrat has given birth to a daughter and is keeping the name secret until the naming ceremony.  King Verence has summoned an Omnian Priest and sent invitations out to other kingdoms.  Of course vampires love to get invited into places, but when a King does it the whole Kingdom is at stake. (I am really pleased with that pun)

My reservations are that the witches novels do feel a little bit formulaic at this point.  That said it is crammed full of puns and jokes and footnotes that I love.  I love the ideas of the vampires trying new ideas.

Agnes is brilliant in this novel because she is resistant the vampiric mind control. He second thoughts provided by Perdita are vicious and I love that Anges is generally nice but Perdita is much more assertive and vociferous. She teams up with Mighty Oates (the Omnian priest who can’t make up his mind about what he believes in)

There are some fantastic ideas like the gnarly ground, which is highly magical and changes depending on how you are feeling as you traverse it.  Vampires trying to fit by wearing colourful clothes and going by mundane names.

As with all Pratchett novels it is a romp.  The pacing is breakneck speed and there is a lot of drama, well Granny Weatherwax does have impeccable timing.  I love how there is ambiguity in the coven roles in this one.  Agnes assumes the maiden position and Magrat who is a new mother is now able to surprise Nanny Ogg with her more colourful jokes.  Nanny finds herself pushed into the role of Crone and where does that leave Granny?  That’s one of the central themes is the change and getting older.  Granny isn’t ready to conform just yet.

 This is where I am leaving my Discworld re-read for the moment.  I have so much affection for the witches.  Granny Weatherwax remains my hero and I still feel a strong kinship with Agnes Nitt.  My appreciation for Magrat and Nanny Ogg has deepened and as always, Greebo is my favourite cat in literature.

I’m currently reading The Shepherd’s Crown which is the final Discworld novel and coincidentally features the witches. I will be posting a reaction to it once I’ve finished it.

Jane’s Great Re-Read: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – Review

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I always felt smug about this book, mainly because I worked out who the Half-Blood Prince was prior to it being published. I also guessed that Dumbledore would not make it to the final book. Although that was rather more obvious. This is a wild ride of a book, I loved all the sequences between Harry and Dumbledore. Dumbledore diminishing, though having learnt important lessons in the Order of the Phoenix. Also Snape you can’t talk about this book without thinking deeply about Snape stuck between a rock and a hard place and with no choice to his actions. And the questions about who is he actually loyal to?

And then there’s Draco, in well over his head and feeling every inch the frightened child that he is. I adore Dumbledore in the sequence, when facing down someone who charged with killing him, he tries to reason with him and even this darkest of moments he offers Draco a way out.

I cried at Dumbledore’s funeral I couldn’t help it. The huge protective presence in the novels is gone as it needs to be for Harry to realise his true potential and defeat Voldemort.

IMG_3465IMG_3466So my five things:

  1. Horace Slughorn a collector of people and the one Slytherin who doesn’t seem completely dark and evil.
  2. Felix Felicis.  I would love to have a small vial of that potion just for once.
  3. The confrontation between Snape and Harry when Harry goes after him after killing Dumbledore.
  4. The opening sequence with the muggle prime minister I like to imagine its Tony Blair because I’m a bit weird like that.
  5. The order being bad ass.

Jane’s Great Re-Read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Aw yeah. Re-reading Prisoner of Azkaban was a complete joy. This really is J K Rowling writing at her best here. No extraneous bits, the plots moves at a thundering pace and it is fantastic. Even the time travelling which is notorious to pull off well is competently done. The character development really starts here, we start to learn more about Snape and some of the reasons why he hated James Potter so much. Oh Severus, so much disappointment for you in this novel.

So without further ado five things from Prisoner

  1. Minerva Mcgonagall being disrespectful and passive aggressive towards Professor Trelawney and barely even managing to conceal it from the students. My favourite dig comes from Christmas dinner where Sibyl has been waxing lyrical and she counters by picking up a dish: “Tripe, Sybil?”
  2. Remus Lupin. The best Defence Against Dark Arts teacher ever. Marauder’s map manufacturer and werewolf. He gets a bum deal in this novel yet still fights for what is right.
  3. The dementors. They are a brilliant representation of depression and they are one of the most disturbing things in the the series of novels.
  4. That said I love way to fight them is a Patronus which is the essence of happiness in animal form. I would really like to have one of my own. It would probably a cat.
  5. Chocolate as the remedy for a Dementor attack. I try to always carry some round just in case.