My Rating: 4.5/5
Author: Paula Brackston
Title: The Winter Witch
Genre: Historical Fiction
“In her small early nineteenth century Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She is small and quick and pretty enough to attract a suitor, but there are things that set her apart from other girls. Though her mind is sharp she has not spoken since she was a young girl. Her silence is a mystery, as well as her magic—the household objects that seem to move at her command, the bad luck that visits those who do her ill. Concerned for her safety, her mother is anxious to see Morgana married, and Cai Jenkins, the widowed drover from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumors that swirl around her, seems the best choice.
After her wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving her mother, and wary of this man, whom she does not know, and who will take her away to begin a new life. But she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the wild mountains that surround it. Here, where frail humans are at the mercy of the elements, she thrives, her wild nature and her magic blossoming. Cai works to understand the beautiful, half-tamed creature he has chosen for a bride, and slowly, he begins to win Morgana’s affections. 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 man, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything in this beautifully written, enchanting novel.”
The Winter Witch is a historical fiction novel with a slight paranormal twist. This story does not gloss over the Welsh realities of the 1800s. Morgana is mute; she hasn’t spoken since her father disappeared when she was a little girl. Now, she is being married to a drover, Cai, who is from Ffynnon Las. Cai’s prior wife died in childbirth, and for him to be porthmon he needs a wife. Who would trust someone with the cattle and other livestock, financial arrangements, contracts, etc. if he does not have a home and wife to come back to? He could just run off with their money. Hence, he gets married to Morgana, who he has seen over the past several years when he was on his drive. However, there is something special about Morgana – besides her lack of speech. Her father was a gypsy and with that she has witches blood within her. She has been hiding it for whole life, with some slip ups when she became angry. Little does she know that Ffynnon Las is special, and with that comes dangers she never knew could be expected.
The story is written in first person following Morgana, and third person following Cai. Morgana is young and likes being outdoors. She is not one for social calls and other societal conducts. She loves the horses on the farm and does well with helping Cai with the animals. However, she meets some people who are not what they appear at her new home. There is something evil about them but she cannot discuss this with Cai – for one, she is mute, and two she does not have tangible proof (only feelings.) Cai is getting over his first wife’s death which happened a few years prior. He does not wallow in pity throughout the book, but rather discovers how much he likes his new wife – although she can be hard to understand. He wants her to fit in and tries his best to accommodate that. He ends up taking her with him on his drive to London (to sell the cattle and other animals along with business from the local town.) There are many troubles that test him along the way. A few other characters make appearances regularly. They are fun and have their own personality – such as Mrs. Jones who helps out at Ffynnon Las.
The plot moved along well for me. It did not cuddle the reader from the troubles that drovers/farmers faced in Wales during that time. There are tragedies and the story pushes the characters to their limits. Everything ties up nicely, and there are a few surprises along the way. One reason I gave this novel a 4.5 instead of 5 is because of a slightly out of place event that takes place near the end. If you have the hardback version is it on pages 323-324. It just seemed a little out of place from the rest of the story. Other than that, I really liked the book.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Not many authors like to push their characters very far. It’s like they take the reader to the edge of a cliff, let them peek over, and then carry on with the story. Other authors go farther. They let the reader go over the cliff, only to be caught just below the ledge by a lip in the side. That is what happens in this book. If you like historical fiction with a splash of paranormal, you might like this book.