The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston
|The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A blend of fantasy and Edwardian historical fiction (with the emphasis on fantasy) begins will with some rivetingly absorbing writing but then the author sabotages it. A sad waste of obvious talent and a good idea.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 416||Date: December 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
London 1913: The Sixth Earl of Radnor dies, passing his mantle on to his daughter Lady Lilith Montgomery. No, it’s not the earldom he passes on (that goes to her brother Freddie) but the position of Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. With the position comes responsibilities and secrets that have been kept for generations. Divulging the secrets would break the coven code but there are dark entities abroad that want them, no matter what… or who… it costs.
British author Paula Brackston is a New York Times best-selling writer and has previously, in her Shadow Chronicles series, combined sorcery and historical fiction to some acclaim. However, I write this review with a heavy heart as this time we're definitely looking at a novel of two halves… well… two-thirds and one-third actually.
To start with we enter a well thought out world where 1913 Britain is veering towards conflict unaware of the conflict already cooking in the Lazarus coven. Lilith is young, naïve and feels unready for the road ahead but her late (and reassuringly revisiting) father thinks otherwise.
Lilith's inner turmoil is worsened on realisation that the love she feels for her eminently suitable fiancé and fellow witch Lord Louis Harcourt is a shadow of what she feels for itinerant artist Bram. Yes, I know – the rich versus the bit of rough; but it's so good I bought into it totally along with the wonderful baddie Stricklend, weak brother Freddie, the descriptions of the ceremonies and spot-on atmospherics. But then it all fell apart. The novel commences as wonderful entertainment but then it jumps, and ruins everything, not just once but twice.
As World War I approaches we start to wonder what part the plot will play. Will the evil organisation hunting Lilith pollute the minds of men towards violence? Who will survive the war? How will the war affect the coven? Then soon we cease wondering as it becomes obvious that the setting in time is immaterial. There's one dramatic moment of pre-war prophecy to whet our whistles before more magic and romance and then we inexplicably leap from 1913 to 1917 with a cliff hanger solved by a get out of gaol free card. The war becomes an under-used device to keep two characters apart for a while without showing us anything of the battles. Later we go from 1917 to 1919 in a similarly single bound.
The jumps also seem to shake the novel in the same way they shook me, causing plot holes to open up like chasms. Again, no spoilers but Lilith goes completely out of character changing from kinda 'I would never do any of that… No not I!' to kinda 'Oh, go on then!' As for the historical feel, it's hard to believe that the alliance of goodies at the climax would be so at ease working together. Even if we overlook the lack of personality clashes as we consider what's happened, society's outrage and scandal would be immense for all concerned.
Perhaps this should have been a series taking us, Lilith and co through the war years with more contemporaneous tie-ins. Perhaps Paula took her eye off the ball for good reason and with the best intentions. Unfortunately this novel is what it is, Paula's display of obvious talent ruined and, unfortunately, it's the ruination that remains in the memory rather than the initial glory. The great news is that the glory is as much Paula's as the rest so perhaps the seed of such talent and imagination will have more of an opportunity to blossom and less of an off-day next time?
(Thank you Corsair for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If you enjoy the heady mixture of witchery, romance and history as much as I do, then the hearty recommendation has to be A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and then the following two books in the All Souls trilogy: Shadow of Night and The Book of Life.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.