Since everyone in my neck of the woods has been enjoying relatively warm weather, I thought I would discuss a novel set in wintry Wales. I was hesitant at first to review this book because I found it in the teen section. Teen novels are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I try my best not to discriminate against books based solely on their intended audience. Not every teen novel is stupid and more than a few have a good story to tell. They will often even have interesting heroines and heroes. Paula Brackston‘s The Winter Witch is a pretty cool novel. I’m always up for a book about magic, but what I got was far more than another book about a teenage witch who finds love. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call The Winter Witch a fantastic piece of fantasy fiction, and the protagonist Morgana a well-written and interesting character.
Straying from where normally novels start, the story begins with the protagonist’s wedding. The ever-silent Morgana lives in a small Welsh town with her mother. Gifted with an wild and mysterious power, but bullied and ostracized by her fellow villagers, life is not easy for Morgana. Luckily, she does not particularly care about people, preferring the wonders of nature and the company of animals. Unfortunately, this simple solitude in the forest cannot go on forever. Faced with little in future prospects and urged by her ailing mother, Morgana marries Cai Bevan, a widower from the far hills. Though he knows nothing of the rumors surrounding his new bride, it is soon apparent that Morgana may be a witch.
This heroine is different from others in many ways, the most obvious difference being that she hardly ever speaks. Instead, she uses her actions and facial expressions to communicate with others. Her husband Cai often misinterprets Morgana’s actions, but he tries his best to understand her and her wild ways. Over time they slowly grow closer and begin to care for one another like a married couple should. However, near the hills lies a dark force that would do anything to tear them, and their beloved land, apart. It will take the power, courage, and love they have both for each other and the land they are fighting for to defeat the evil once and for all. My favorite thing about the novel was Morgana and the steady pace of the novel. Many fantasy novels tend to move way too fast. It’s often like: now they’re in love, now they are battling a dragon, now she’s a witch, now some people died—sometimes all in the same chapter. This isn’t like that. I also liked the way the couple fell in love with each other for actual reasons, such as spending time together, appreciating each other’s positive and negative aspects, and mutual respect. Another part I liked was making Morgana silent. By making Morgana silent the author challenges the other characters to understand her. The audience is privy to her thoughts, so the frustration is real when she is misunderstood or accused of misdeeds.
The description of Wales’ scenery sounded so beautiful it made me want to go there to see it for myself. My least favorite part of the novel was the antagonist. The evil seductress villain has been done so many times, and this one wasn’t all that interesting. She was simply there because an antagonist was needed. She was doing bad things because… evil. No real reason otherwise. That was one of the few problems I had with the novel. Otherwise it was great. I’m leaving out practically everything, so don’t just take my word for it, go read it for yourself. Already read the novel? Other works by Paula Brackston are her debut novel, The Witch’s Daughter, and a short story called the The Witches of the Blue Well.
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