A Secret History Of Witches: A Novel by Louisa Morgan

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“Oh, the craft! What good is it, if we spend our lives working like animals and living like peasants?” 

The ache of magic captivates five generations of witches from 19th Century Brittany whose bloodline reaches all the way into World War II.  The women each have their own struggles with love, and in fact men seem to be their biggest threat, as much as for some their own greed, or fears. Where some of the women through time long to hide and accept fate, others hunger for more, even at the risk of abusing their birthright.

I was hoping for more bite from a circle of Romani gypsy witches, and each story would captivate me and then just when I was interested it ended and moved on to the next in the line. I felt like there needed to be more story and conflict from the world outside the families, of course we still need the deception within marriages. But to go from villagers bent on bloodlust in the begining, with the best witch to leave us too soon to milder, diluted witches and situations just left me hungry for more. Not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy, the author plays with history, particularly with Veronica and Queen Elizabeth, and touches on some witchery with scrying, and grimoires, etc. The relationships are rushed over, it’s hard to connect to any mother/daughter bonds, in fact the only relationship fed much fuel seemed to be in the dissonance between Irene, Morwen and Ursula. I had high hopes that when Urulsa seeks out her grandchild  the story would turn, that there would be an opportunity for magic to burn a new path for the Orchiére women, that maybe she would run off with her or take her in hand and teach her, but it wasn’t to be.

They seemed to accept their fate too much and not use their magic enough, curious that maybe even placing a healing witch in the woods would have been enough to make the witchery seem useful, none of them seemed to have a purpose beyond becoming women and getting pregnant. So much betrayal, so many lies, granted as vile as Irene may come off, she was one of the few that at least had done something useful with her power. Again, what is the point in magic if you’re just going to lay low? Punished for abusing power, maybe, but at least she had fight in her. To be fair, there was more hope in Veronica, and the ending is better but I didn’t find myself really in love with any of these women, with the exception of everyone in the beginning. I half wonder if I would have enjoyed a full book devoted simply to Nanette and Ursula. Instead the aunts and uncles die off, a pity because I came to like them. It may just be me, I prefer to stick with a cast of characters rather than rush into the future and their progeny. It’s good, it’s just not quite the witch story I was hoping for.

Maybe magic was simply diluted through the decades, and the women learn to just blend in but where is the fun in that? At least Veronica has some fire in her soul!

Available Now

Orbit Books

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