“The Winter Witch” by Paula Brackston is a new adult low-fantasy novel published on Jan. 29, 2013 by Thomas Dunne Books.
When I decided to pick this novel up, several things went through my mind. Beautiful cover, first off. But really, it had been a while since I read a real fantasy story and I have been feeling that pull lately. It was new adult, which is a plus for me, but I was sort of scared going in due to the synopsis that made me feel like this was going to be another cliche drama-romance. The LAST thing I feel like sitting through is a story about some girl made to look strong through magic but who consistently fails and gets saved by -insert name of random guy with six pack abs and a lack of shirts-. Let’s see how that faired.
The novel is set in an early nineteenth century Welsh town. Morgana (typical witch name) starts out as an eighteen year old girl with a long deceased father and a mother hellbent on marrying her off. The catch, she is also mute by choice. She has spoken not a word since the death of her father for reasons that not even she truly understands, but she has gotten used to it. Then comes Cai. Cai is several years older, twenty six if I remember correctly, widowed once and the owner of a large estate some distance away in another town. Morgana’s mother arranges their marriage and they move off. Morgana heavily resents Cai for much of the novel- they talk little, he works, she roams the hills and town and they sort of settle into a routine that will eventually draw them closer. All the while, another woman in the town seems to be trying to inch herself into Cai’s life while doing everything in her power to make Morgana’s harder. Morgana slowly begins to realize weird things that seem to happen only when she’s around and that she may be the cause. From this point, the novel takes a deep turn where Morgana really grows into her shoes, finds out what she is, her ancestry and how to deal with an evil, already entrenched in the town, that is rapidly seeking to end her.
This novel… did as much right as it did wrong. Is it cliche and generic? In many ways, yes, but in some ways, no. The main conflict of the novel tries to come as a surprise later on in the story, but I found it incredibly obvious from early on. It is absolutely a drama-romance at its core, but it does a little bit to fight off the generic pitfalls that come with that genre. Since Morgana is mute, she and Cai can’t have long, drawn out scenes with terrible dialogue. Cai says things, Morgana stares at him sternly and they move on. I think that is a HUGE saving point for this novel.
The novel uses dual PoV- switching between Morgana and Cai- and I found myself always looking forward to the next Morgana chapter. Cai is a bit more one note. He’s got a job to do and a woman to woo; that’s pretty much his life. Morgana spends a lot of her time thinking about more things than just the relationship. She contemplates life, the things that she wants to do and how to deal with a society that doesn’t exactly welcome her with opening arms. The good part is that she really doesn’t need much saving. For the most part, she is self-sufficient from start to end. However, there is a lot of cliche, naturalistic imagery used in the novel to portray her. She loves to be about in the mountains and forest and she is constantly described as if she were some sort of wildlife.
As for the conclusion, it was alright. I felt like it was unnecessarily drawn out, but then again – that’s the genre. There turns out to be a twist after the twist, which did manage to take me by surprise.
So, if you really like drama-romance stories, then this is, in my opinion, one of the best ones you can get. It does a few things outside tradition to breathe life into this bogged down genre which I greatly appreciated. But on the flip side, it’s still just not “that” moving to me.
You can buy “The Winter Witch” on Amazon, BookDepository, Barnes & Noble and most other major booksellers.
3.00 / 5.00