The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Published: December 2013 (originally January 2013)
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, romance
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.
Morgana hasn’t spoken a word, not a single sound, ever since her father disappeared. Her mother, ailing and worried for Morgana, encourages her to marry Cai Jenkins, a drover and widower from a far town. As Morgana and Cai try to adjust to their awkward situation, the town and its inhabitants are suspicious of Morgana and her strange, otherworldliness. But Morgana is determined to prove herself, to make her new husband proud, and to protect the town with her powers before an evil destroys them all.
The stunning cover grabbed my attention, followed by the 1830s Welsh setting and the raw magic the heroine possesses. Morgana is a witch, and people have their suspicions of it, but she is not one that brews potions or shouts incantations (or shouts in general) or waves a stick in the air. She is a “wild” one, a woman bonded with the earth and all its creatures, with the ability to control her surroundings, the elements, and animals’ emotions. Cai senses this in his new wife, but is never fearful of her. He sees no harm in what she does; he finds her abilities merely a way for her to express herself without words.
The landscape, the lush language, the interaction with animals and townspeople, the dangers of farm life and drovers’ work, and the horrible Reverend Cadwaladr and Mrs Isolda Bowen all build upon one another to create a fantastic story. It’s as if I was reading a Bronte novel, with the wild landscape, the high winds, the juxtaposition of peace and danger in seclusion. Brackston’s language was so perfect, I truly felt like I was helping Morgana, Cai, and his drovers with the livestock; that I was there with them in the kitchen attempting to cook something before Mrs Jones lost all hope and took over the task; that I could smell the evil emanating from the town’s most respected people.
Brackston also uses two engaging perspectives that pushes the reader to keep reading till the end. Cai’s portions were written in third person, outside of his head to allow for the best possible view of his surroundings, his opinions, and his observance of Morgana. Morgana’s portions were written in first person, to best allow for the reader to join her on her witchwalks, to feel her pain and sorrow, to understand her joy. These perspectives alternate within chapters, and I grew to love each one. But once a big event happens in one perspective, I became anxious to see the other’s take on the event, and scrambled to finish one portion so I could move to the next. Such an interesting style, and one that certainly propels the reader forward.
Ultimately, the three vastly different witches in this novel, coupled with Welsh farm life and the dazzling hills, and the sweet, budding romance between Cai and Morgana, will keep the reader craving more till the whole book is completely devoured. An absolutely stunning book.
9 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Winter Witch” by Paula Brackston”
Don’t you just love this book? It made my Top 10 list of 2013 reads. It’s one of those stories I kept thinking about for days after I’d finished reading it…so beautiful! I loved everything about it. 🙂
Yes yes yes!
What a wonderful review 🙂
And it sounds like a very exciting book, you made me curious 😉
Thank you 🙂 You should read it, it’s wonderful.
You’re welcome 🙂
I’ll try, but I have so many books, it will have to wait 😉
Oh, I understand completely 😉
Nice review. I’ve been on the fence about this book a while – people seem to either love it or hate it. I’m going to have see if it’s at the library – a good in the middle.
I can see where some people might not enjoy it — it does have flowery language. Definitely borrow it and give it a shot.
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