A Nomadic Witch is the fourth book in Geary’s first series, A Modern Witch. The book returns to Fisher’s Cove, the village in Nova Scotia which was the setting for the second book in the series, A Hidden Witch. Here the story focuses on Marcus, the village curmudgeon and a man bearing the scars of having lost his twin brother, Evan, when they were young children. A shady psychic phone-line operator breaks into the online game world, Enchanter’s Realm which is featured throughout the series, and brings a message to Marcus from Evan: a baby girl named Morgan is coming to Marcus and he must take care of her.
Marcus is, indeed, Geary’s first male protagonist, but that fact is not terribly remarkable since Geary’s stories have been consistently told from a floating third-person subjective perspective, and much of even her first novel was expressed through the experiences of Jamie, one of the the creators of the Realm. In fact, it took Geary much longer to employ the perspective of a non-witch in one of her novels, than it did for her to use a male perspective. Nevertheless, A Nomadic Witch is the first of the novels centered on a guy.
We have met Marcus in previous books. He is irascible, prickly, and competitive and makes for one of Geary’s more interesting characters. He pretty much wants to be left alone to continue his campaign to be the highest ranked player in the Realm, but the arrival of Morgan on his doorstep forces him to grow out of his shell. He, of course, would much rather pass Morgan on to others in the village of witches, but Moira, the village’s Irish matriarch, keeps everyone from providing Marcus with anything other than instruction and the physical things he needs to care for the violet-eyed baby Morgan. Despite his reluctance, he bonds with Morgan fairly quickly, and so by the time the government social worker shows up to investigate, Marcus seeks and accepts guardianship while the government conducts its due diligence into Morgan’s parents.
Morgan is a witch as well, and it quickly becomes clear that she has the same rare ability for astral traveling that Evan had. The problem is that young witches cannot necessarily control the ability to travel and often drift off in their dreams never to return as happened with Evan. Thus, Marcus’ overriding goal becomes to keep from losing Morgan in the same way that he lost Evan so many years before.
The ability to astral travel is, thus, a bit like SIDS for witches in this universe. It is poorly understood issue for the witch community which strikes horror and fear into the hearts of witch parents. Marcus and the community which surround Morgan and him try various approaches to keep Morgan safe. At one point, it appears that proximity to water may be part of the issue, and so Marcus moves inland. He even tries keeping Morgan in the Realm while she sleeps. Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear the moving will not keep Morgan anchored in this world.
The emotional stakes are higher and more personal than any of Geary’s prior novels, and she brings the plot to a satisfying conclusion that even brings Marcus and Evan together for a final conversation that reminded me of Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel. (Spoiler for a 1929 book: the protagonist has a surprising conversation with his dead brother in one of the last chapters of novel in a book that otherwise features absolutely nothing paranormal. That fact frustrated the heck out me when my erstwhile book group took on the book and I was the only one who had gotten that far when we discussed it.)
Once again, Geary explores the relationship between individuals and community in a world of magic. Marcus starts as an isolated and thoroughly confirmed bachelor, and is transformed by the baby who is placed in his care. That over-arching plot is probably one that we’ve seen before, but the magic and community in this series keeps things fresh, and ultimately Marcus is probably the most interesting person the Geary has explored so far.