“The Silver Witch” by Paula Brackston

Hey, fellow booknerds. Apologies for my absence over the last few weeks: university really got in the way of reviewing more than I thought it would, as did illness. I’m trying to get back on top of my reviews now that term’s finished, and today’s review is part of a blog tour celebrating the release of The Silver Witch. (Hence why it’s on a Thursday, which isn’t one of my usual posting days.)

Silver witch banner [1878409]

As you may well have deduced, I received The Silver Witch from NetGalley. I requested it because it mentioned Wales and historical/mythological things, so it seemed like it was probably my thing. This review, on the other hand, will not be my best, and I’m sorry for that — I hope it’s decent enough to give you an impression of my thoughts.

As someone who studies Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic with a particular focus on the Celtic side of things, this book hit a lot of the spots: the mixture of history and mythology, the way the past interacted with the present… I’d be interested to know more about the author’s background and why she chose to write such a historicised book. I also liked that it featured albino characters, because I’m not sure I’ve ever really come across that in books before. There were three albino kids in my year at school, unusually, and yet I’ve never seen them represented in fiction.

My one problem with the book was that there was just too much description. It wasn’t repetitive, but it just dragged on in places, particularly at the beginning of the book — it took me quite a long time to get invested because there was no action at the beginning. While I liked the character development, I did occasionally get bored by how much description and scene-setting there was, and likewise some of the dialogue (particularly with the archaeologists etc) was very, very detailed, and that meant it felt a wee bit didactic in places. I appreciated the author’s commitment to research and detail, but I also felt a little bit bombarded with details. I was reading fiction to get away from the difficult books I have to read for my course — not to have a repeat of them!

I definitely got into the book towards the end and I liked how things developed, but I wish that had happened earlier in the narrative, because there was too much exposition and set-up before the action started. If I hadn’t been reading for a review, I might have put the book down at that point, because I was looking for something a bit more fast-paced.

One plot critique I’d offer is that the character, after seeing various visions of her ancestor and whatnot, is able to track her down in the historical record. The reality is that medieval history is rarely that detailed and sometimes it’s impossible to track down key political figures — kings and the like — let alone more minor ones. That forced me to suspend my disbelief a little too far, though I guess most people wouldn’t notice that so much.

Normally, I’d review characters and relationships in more detail, but unfortunately I read this book nearly two months ago and didn’t take note of those kinds of details (because I’m a fool, and also because I thought I’d have a chance to review it a bit sooner), so I’m unable to do that. I remember that the protagonist, Tilda, seemed like a well-rounded character with a number of interests and hobbies (pottery, running). I also remember that the romance built fairly slowly, due to Tilda still mourning her husband’s death, which made it more convincing for me. (I hate insta-love.)

The plot is slow, partly due to the two narrative points of view: Tilda, in the present day, and Seren, hundreds of years ago. However, it does have some gripping moments and the drama builds to a quite powerful ending. I just wish it hadn’t taken quite so long to get that far.

In short: it was an interesting book with a premise designed to draw me in, all Celts and Anglo-Saxons and weirdness. However, the level of description made it rather too long and it was hard for me to stay focused; while I was engaged enough to make it to the end, I’m not sure I would have done if I wasn’t reading for a review.

Rating: ***

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