Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Halloween Read: The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

My spooky reads for the month continues with one of my favorite authors, Paula Brackston.  

But, I'm sad to say, I wasn't bewitched by this novel.  Trying to let the disappointment go and move on, but it is hard when an author you enjoy doesn't hit it out of the park every single time.  

Paula Brackston still remains true to her theme of witchcraft in this, her third novel. I read The Silver Witch earlier this year and just gobbled it up (much like the Brach's pumpkin cremes I inhale every October).  The Midnight Witch was already sitting on my bookshelf, but was set aside while I was in the throes of grad school.  Now, finally, I had the chance to read it.  Fully expected to love it.  Didn't. 

This novel takes place before and after World War I.  In 1913, Lady Lilith Montgomery is mourning the death of her father.  Rich, beautiful, and engaged, Lilith seems to have it all, and then some:  her father was the head witch of the Lazarus Coven, and Lilith is the heir. The Lazarus Coven is very old, and very secret.  They exist to protect England from dark forces, especially the Sentinels, a group of nasty sorcerers  bent on reclaiming the "elixir" the Lazarus Coven keeps under wraps.  The Sentinels see an opportunity to strike with the death of Lilith's father and her ascent as head witch.  

Lilith has been trained since childhood in the arts of witchcraft, and she's pretty powerful and up to the task of head witch.  But the nasty spirit whispering in her ear, and the knowledge that there is a spy in the Lazarus Coven make her position tenuous. The gathering clouds of war are always in the background, making what should be a happy time in Lilith's life pretty stressful and gloomy.  

Oh, there's also that love interest:  not her fiance, but a poor starving artist.  He's talented, and drop dead gorgeous, but not a witch, and completely out of Lilith's social circle.  Not husband material for her at all.  Lilith must keep her other life--that of a witch--a secret to everyone who is not in the coven (her mother still doesn't know her husband was a witch and her daughter is as well).  How can she possibly find a way out of this mess?

I've been trying to figure out just what I didn't like about this novel.  I kept finding myself thinking it was set earlier than 1913-1914 and that was frustrating.  There wasn't a lack of social clues; the fashion was discussed quite frequently, as well as mentions of cars and women's attitudes.  And World War I was certainly a big part of it.  Somehow I kept getting lost even with all of those reference points to keep me straight.  I also didn't care for the romance between Lilith and Bram.  I didn't feel any chemistry between the two at all.  

The novel does jump ahead 5 years, to after the war.  I found this plot device hard to swallow.  Lilith has so much trouble in 1913-1914; I have a hard time believing the Sentinels wouldn't take advantage of England being in a major war to take control of the Lazarus Coven during such chaos.  They do try, but not very hard.  I felt like the author was very ambitious in the story she wanted to tell, but it fell short somehow.  Too much "stuff" going on that cluttered up the plot.  And I have to say I wasn't entirely crazy about Lilith either.  Something was missing from her personality that would have made me really invested in her issues and struggles.  

Arrgh!  So disappointed in this one.  I always applaud an author who stretches their usual storytelling in another direction.  This one just wasn't the best.  And my golly it seemed way too long.  

Rating:  4/10 for a plot that seemed clunky, a romance that didn't click, and a heroine that unfortunately fell short for me.  

Available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book.


1 comment :

  1. I understand how you feel. We expect so much from our favorite authors! Maybe she had a learning experience and will do better next time. My Halloween read was The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai. No witches but a ghost that exists in a painting and haunts a house; artists; and the book moves backward in time to solve its mystery. Pretty good read.