Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

Title: The Silver Witch
Author: Paula Brackston
Publisher:  Thomas Dunne Books (April 21, 2015)
ISBN: 9781250028792
Pages: 320 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: fiction, fantasy, paranormal, historical fiction
My Rating: 1.5 cups 


A year after her husband's sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat's death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her - a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she's near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.

On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

In her own time, Tilda's grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake's ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each other's, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren's prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more.

My Thoughts:

I had wanted to read one of Paula Brackston's 'witch books' for some time, so when this one became available I was eager to dig in. This book is quite slow to start, and while Brackston is a very descriptive writer, those descriptions get extremely repetitive and redundant through the course of this tale. Over and again we are given detailed accounts of the lake, the flora and fauna, the weather, Tilda's running preferences, albinism, etc. - to the point it seems as though nothing much actually happens until well over halfway into the book:

"Although it is late in the year, it is the weekend, and plenty of people have taken the opportunity to come down to the lake. The little car park is nearly full, and the bicycle racks bristle with mountain bikes and racers, their riders sitting nearby to eat their lunches, or wandering closer to the shore to view the lake. There is a family of swans being fed by some walkers, their cygnets grown large but still sporting some of their grubby brown feathers. Pushy mallards waddle onto the small tarmac quay in the hope of sandwich crusts or maybe the stub of an ice-cream cone. A harassed woman shepherds her own brood of young children away from the water’s edge, luring them toward the café with the promise of hot dogs. A party of teenage canoeists busy themselves unloading their boats from a trailer."

It sets the scene, certainly, but the level of detail is simply too much, in my opinion, and I found myself skimming these sections more often than not. Excess words spent on these endless descriptions could have been better applied to character development and plot instead, as both feel rather superficial and contrived. Once the action does finally start, there are far too many convenient coincidences to be believed, and some things are never adequately explained at all. I much preferred the past portion of the dual narrative over the modern day story, and did find the Celtic history of the area quite interesting. However, even that storyline lacks depth overall.

Given all that, this would have been a 'middle of the road' read for me had it not gone entirely off the rails at the end. I won't give any spoilers, but the culminating events, particularly the final 'showdown' with the baddie, are so eye-rollingly ridiculous they had me cringing. Sadly, my favorite thing about this book is the gorgeous cover, and that is not enough to recommend it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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