Title: The Silver Witch
Author: Paula Brackston
A year after her husband’s sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat’s death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she’s near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.
On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.
In her own time, Tilda’s grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake’s ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each other’s, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren’s prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more.
This is one I picked up on a whim. Lately all my reads have been recommended by my fiance, but this is a rare outlier. Honestly, it was a case of the cover calling out to me. And I’m glad I went with my gut! Turns out, this is a writer I’ve read before that I really enjoyed, and I hadn’t even realized it until after I finished The Silver Witch and looked up her other works.
The Silver Witch is the story of a woman recovering from tragedy – a year prior to the start of the book, Tilda lost her husband immediately after their honeymoon, and this has left her reluctant to make connections to new people. She puts herself out there, though, when she decides to try to live on her own in the place where they were supposed to start their lives together.
Tilda is a very sympathetic character. I felt a connection with her almost instantly – she’s kind and generally soft-spoken, but carries a hidden strength that surprises even her sometimes. It was nice to see a character not fall into a panic when she starts to discover her hidden abilities. And with no one to guide or help her, she takes it upon herself to experiment, to try on her own. There’s an understated bravery to her that I really enjoyed, and watching her grow more confident and sure of herself made for a great read. Though she does most of the legwork herself, with the occasional help from the supporting cast, at no point did she feel like a Mary Sue. That’s a difficult thing to balance, and speaks volumes of the writer’s skill.
The other character whose story runs parallel to Tilda’s is Seren, a witch and shaman whose life holds answers for Tilda. Though I enjoyed Tilda’s story, I wish we’d had more time with Seren, too. I’d read an entire book just about her – the politics she had to deal with, her upbringing, her magic. The lore of the world was simple enough, but I would have liked to see more of it.
All in all, this was a very fun read, and Paula Brackston is an author I’ll definitely be coming back to.