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The Lost Child of Lychford (Witches of Lychford) Paperback – November 1, 2016
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"Cornell weaves together a fast-paced story and engrossing character studies; he paints a setting of a gloomy English countryside, disarming his readers with magic and danger that lurks unseen. Beneath the suspense lies wry humor that buoys the tale along." ―Publishers Weekly
"Cornell introduces some genuine existential chills into this ingratiating setting." ―The Chicago Tribune
Praise for WITCHES OF LYCHFORD
"At once epic and terribly intimate. This is the story of a village, not a city, and all the more powerful for that; not all big fantasy needs an urban setting. Beautifully written, perfectly cruel, and ultimately kind. This is Cornell at the height of his craft." - Seanan McGuire, author of the Incryptid and October Daye series
"Paul Cornell has written a marvelous story, rich in charm, about local politics and witchcraft writ small and personal, but large in consequence." - Bill Willingham, author of Fables and Down the Mysterly River
"Refreshing and suspenseful, this novella is an inventive look at the idea of magic lurking just beyond one's reach." ―Publishers Weekly
"Masterfully creepy and sinister, all the more so for taking place in the beautifully drawn English countryside." - Jenny Colgan, author of Doctor Who: Into the Nowhere
About the Author
Paul Cornell is a writer of science fiction and fantasy in prose, comics and television, one of only two people to be Hugo Award nominated for all three media. A New York Times #1 Bestselling author, he's written Doctor Who for the BBC, Wolverine for Marvel, and Batman & Robin for DC. He's won the BSFA Award for his short fiction, an Eagle Award for his comics, and shares in Writer's Guild Award for his TV work.
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It's been a few months since Reverend Lizzie Blackmore, Judith (the elderly witch), and Autumn (now her apprentice and her employer) fought off the supernaturally corrupt megastore (and probably mundanely corrupt, too, come to think of it) and life has moved on in a relatively normal way. The three have forged some sort of alliance -- easy for Autumn and Lizzie, already close, but learning new things about each other; not so easy for Judith to be accepted and to accept them, I don't think. Autumn's learning from Judith, while getting some help in her shop (which seems like a small town version of Atticus O'Sullivan's and Alex Verus' shops combined). Judith's got something to do, a way to pass on her knowledge, and Lizzie is super-busy with pre-Christmas activities in the church.
But given everything we learned about Lychford, it's not terribly surprising that things won't stay that way, it's just a question of what kind of other-worldly strangeness will come calling first.
In this case, it's a ghost -- or ghost-like apparition -- that came to Lizzie at church. A small child looking frightened and worse for wear, with a simple request of: "No hurting." Now, our trio can't all agree on what the apparition is, but they can all get behind the idea of "No hurting." They just have to figure out if that's something they can stop -- and then they'll worry about the how. Neither piece of that plan works the way that it's supposed to, but it seems these three are pretty good at improvising. Autumn, in particular, seems particularly adept at that.
I appreciated the fact that each of these women make one significant mistake (and probably some smaller ones) -- two that come from inexperience, one that proves that experience doesn't equal infallibility. They're all believable, they do more than just advance the plot, they are honest with the characters and situation. Too often in novels you're left wondering why a protagonist would be so stupid as to do X -- when really it comes down to they have to do X or the really cool Y thing can't happen at the end. That doesn't happen here -- sure, the attentive reader might be able to see the blunder coming around the corner, but there's no reason to think that our protagonists should until it's too late. Because while these three are fictional characters, Cornell imbues them with a genuineness, a substantial-ness that's fitting for a real person (sadly, not always present with them, however).
Man, I had to use DuckDuckGo a lot to get all the cultural details in these pages -- I know next to nothing about Anglican Christmas festivities, and less about British Christmas Pop Music. I'm not sure how much I'll benefit long-term from this research, but it was interesting. I might have been better off not knowing anything about Greg Lake and his song, though.
If there was such a thing as magic, it wouldn't look like anything from Harry Potter, Harry Dresden or some other fantasy series starring a Harry. It'd look like this, I wager. Quiet; shadowy; right out in the open, yet somehow unseen. All substance, no flash. Oh, yeah, and creepy -- can't forget creepy and inexplicable. Which is pretty much everything that happened in this book -- up to and including most of the things the trio does to prevent things from getting really out of hand. It's hard to talk about realism in a fantasy novel, but Cornell's one of those that make you do that.
The Witches of Lychford was thoroughly entertaining and did a great job of establishing this world. This novella took full advantage of that to tell a more compelling story. I don't think it's absolutely necessary to read Witches first, but it'd help a lot. "I Believe in Father Christmas," notwithstanding, I thought The Lost Child of Lychford lived up to its predecessor and left me eager to return to this little village.
If you want to read all ten of my reviews of the 2017 Locus Award novella finalists, go to my blog, which you can find on my author page: Good Feeling: seven short stories
And I love the three witches of Lychford (and their "friend" Finn)...but that said, the underlying story this time around (and I've REALLY been looking forward to this being published - impatiently so) is a little bit thin, as are the disappointingly underdeveloped bad guys. Furthermore, it may be a personal bias, but using "the meaning of Christmas" as a symbolic plot device was played out as literary tool decades and decades ago. Frankly, all the beautiful and gifted elements of Mr. Cornell's writing - and even the many fine features of it that manifest in this book notwithstanding - there is a degree to which, in the final analysis (mine anyway) the book wound up feeling as tepidly unsatisfying as the long-played-out tradition of the annual Dr. Who Christmas episode.
It would be fine, but this is an actual novel, and that is a painful judgment to have to place on what should be - and is in some ways - a far more significant and weighty undertaking.
That said, I find myself even more eager for the next adventure of the witches than I was for this one, as I there is so much fertile ground and. Cornell is such a gifted and skilled writer and storyteller that I am hoping (and am convinced) that with this bit of relative fluff out of his system, the next one will be truly meaty and worthy of its premise and promise.
The three "witches" of these stories are interesting, well-developed characters, and I look forward to spending more time with them in future books. Judith is, to me, the most fascinating of the characters, and her intriguing history is being teased out slowly. Can't wait to find out more about her!
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Recommended but begin with the first one, it's also very very good.Read more