The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston
ORDER A COPY: The Winter Witch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publishing Date: January 31, 2013
Paperback: 340 pages
Rating: 4 stars
In her small Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She has never spoken, and her silence as well as the magic she can’t quite control make her a mystery. Concerned for her safety, her mother quickly arranges a marriage with Cai Jenkins, the widower from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumours that swirl around her. After their wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving, but she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the rugged mountains that surround it, while slowly Cai himself begins to win her heart. 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, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her love, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.
Morgana Pritchard was a wild child who loved to roam the hills of her little town. But more than her love of the hills sets her apart from the other children of the town. Odd things happen when Morgana is around. It was her Dada who explained to Morgana about her magic blood. When her father died, she refused to speak again, adding even more to the whispers of the strange little girl.
Morgana’s mother knew she would never have a full life in this town where everyone looked at her with mistrust, and when drover Cai Jenkins sees Morgana in Town while passing through, he is enchanted by her, and Morgana’s mother knows this gentle man could be Morgana’s chance for a real life. Cai does not object to her silence and he is not aware of the whispers in the Town about Morgana.
Although Morgana’s inability to cook and lack of housekeeping skills do not make her the best choice of mistress of Ffynnon Las (“The Blue Well”), her calming ways with the farm’s prized ponies, makes her the perfect choice to assist Cai on the farm and in the drove to London. Woman do not work as drovers, but Cai is willing to go against custom both for the success of his first drove and to encourage a bond with his new wife. Not all goes well for them. It is almost like there is a dark force working against them.
When they return to the town with a strong bond of the love growing between them, they find that someone was has working hard to destroy Morgana’s reputation in the town.
It is not just her love for the ponies and her growing affections for Cai that draw Morgana to Ffynnon Las, there is great magic here on the land which calls to Morgana’s magic blood, and the spirits of the witches of the well want Morgana as their guardian of the blue well’s magic.
But there are darker powers at work who can also feel the power of the well. The power that belongs only to the owner of Ffynnon Las, and that evil will do anything to remove the little witch and possess the Grimoire of the Blue Well, including turning the whole town against Morgana.
When Morgana’s farm, her life and her beloved Cai are put into jeopardy, the little witch will show that behind her silence there hides a great power all her own.
In Paula Brackston’s second novel, The Winter Witch, she brings us the little witch who lives her life in silence, but who has a heart that shouts as loud as a lion’s roar.
This was a heavier story than I usually read, but I sped right through it. The story was captivating and entertaining.
I did find it hard to get into at first. Morgana is only 18 and acts like a petulant child in many ways, and although Cai is 25 and a widower, he is still rather shy himself. He wants to give Morgana a chance to settle in and get to know him before he asks for husbandly rights, but he bungles in his attempts to build affection between them. He is constantly saying things like, “I wanted to put my arms around her and comfort her, but the moment passed.”
I would say that for the first third of the book I was frustrated by their failed attempts to bond with each other, and although it only implied at this point, there were darker forces working against them. Someone wants the little witch to leave before a bond grows between her and Cai.
When things go badly for Cai and Morgana on the farm and they are forced to sell their prized ponies, Cai does break from tradition and take Morgana on the drove to handle the ponies that she has come to love. Although selling the ponies is heartbreaking to Morgana, working the drove is perfect for the freespirited Morgana and forges the bond between Morgana and Cai, although it is not without its problems and dangers.
This was well written story, and although it took me a bit to get into it, it was definitely enjoyable.
Received ARC from publisher. Thank you.
“A toili comes as a message from the spirits, from those passed over. ‘Tis a message for him as sees it and none other. Someone is in danger,” he states, baldly. “Someone close to you is going to die, and there’s not a thing you or anyone else can do about it.”
Cai opens his mouth to argue further with the man, but a coldness has gripped his heart. He knows the superstition well enough. And he knows what he saw. He is tempted to retort that there is no one close to him any longer; that death has already claimed the woman he loved. And then he remembers Morgana, and a fresh pain stabs through his heart as keen and as agonizing as anything he felt for Caitlin. Morgana!
He runs. He runs so hard and so fast that even Bracken is left trailing behind him. He runs though the air sears his lungs and his chest might burst from the effort. He runs though the muscles in his legs scream and his head becomes giddy from the doing of it. His hat flies from his head but he does not pause to retrieve it. He can think only of Morgana, and that he has judged her harshly. He sees now that it is unfair of him to take against her strange ways—they have always been a part of her. He has simply been choosing to ignore them; how can she be to blame for that? The realization comes to him that he does not care, not about magic or mystery or things he cannot explain. He cares only about her. Morgana, with all her wildness and her curious gifts. Such talents as she has cannot be bad, he reasons, because they are part of her and she is a good person, he is certain of that. Why should these gifts not be God sent, after all? The thought that she might be in danger, that something might happen to her before he can reach her, drives him on.
He runs until at last he can Ffynnon Las, and then he runs harder up the drive, past the pond meadow and into the house itself, flinging wild the front door.
He all but collides with Morgana as she emerges from the parlor. Standing in the hall, panting, fighting for breath so that he can speak, he grips the startled girl by the shoulders.
“Morgana! Morgana, you’re all right. Oh, thank God. Thank God!” With one more gulp of air to sustain him he pulls her close, pressing his mouth over hers, kissing her with the passion and longing of a man starved of love for a very long time. A man who has only just realized what he has. A man shaken by the fear that he might lose what he has finally found. He stops kissing her but does not loosen his hold on her. Mrs. Jones has come out of the kitchen and is staring at him in astonishment, but he doesn’t care. Morgana looks shocked. He tries to explain, gabbling on about the toili and the old man in the hedge, making no sense at all. In the end he gave up and pulled her close, kissing her again, this time more slowly, with less desperation, savoring the sweet moment.
When she pulls back it is to look at him, questioning still, her expression uncertain.
Cai smiles and says gently, “Well, at least you didn’t bite me this time. I call that progress, my wild one.”