Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston

In her small early nineteenth century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana, who has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic.  Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see her married, and Cai Jenkins, a widower from the far hills, seems the best choice.
 After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life.  But she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Cai works to understand the beautiful, half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana’s affections.  It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village.  A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana.  Forced to defend her home, her man, and herself, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

The premise of this book took me as a light read, something just to while away the time with a dash of historical fiction and maybe some magical realism in it.  One reviewer quote claims the book is for lovers of romance and fantasy alike.
Alright, I suppose so.
A silent protagonist, magic, romance, history - what else do you need?
Well, as it happens, a lot.
For one the "Morgana hasn't spoken since she was a child" thing was just sort of a set piece.  It was never really used to any great purpose and, if anything, detracted from her characterization.  There are chapters written from her POV, which helps, but whenever the reader isn't in her head, Morgana drifts away emotionally.  What's worse is that there is never any explanation provided as to why she decided to stop talking.  It's alluded to once or twice, but never explained, thereby making the whole thing pretty much pointless.
There is a romance in it, but the relationship between the two never seems to develop organically, but appears because the author decided that they will fall in love.  It's hard to see what the two people have in common besides a love of the outdoors, but perhaps that's my cold reptilian heart.
On top of which, the overall conflict of the story was between two women - and even though the protagonist is inexperienced, there was never any doubt that she was going to win.  Sure, Villainess McEvil leaves several bodies in her wake- spoilers/trigger warning, including a dog and other animals - but not for one sentence did I ever consider that Morgana would not get her Happily Ever After. 

This isn't to say that this is a bad book.  In fact, it reminded me greatly of The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory in some ways, although Morgana is a much nicer person than Alys.  Both women have magic powers that can be a mark against them, in both books the women face adversity because of their gifts, and both books take place in a "historical" setting.  If you like this book, you'll probably like the other and vice versa.

All in all, it was a fine way to spend a few hours, but I certainly won't be going back for another read.

3 stars!

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