Celestial Elf has created a lovely machinima on the Burning Times. The voice acting, the writing and the music are all lovely, though I’m not sure Agent Smith’s role in the witch persecutions is entirely historically accurate. Enjoy!
Wildhunt reports that our own zan has passed. A lovely recording of his memorial is available at New York Pagan. (It really is an astonishingly joyful celebration of his life, and even if you have never heard of him, it’s a great example of modern Pagan ritual.) You can, of course, always touch his spirit by reading the hundreds of posts he published here.
Debora Geary concludes her A Modern Witch Series with book 7: A Lost Witch. Along with the Witchlight Trilogy that makes ten novels that are setting the stage for the larger work Geary has envisioned. The hook of the Modern Witch series is that new witches are found and brought into the rich communities of Witch Central in Berkeley and Fisher’s Cove in Nova Scotia. The lost witch in this last book of the series is Hannah who starts the story in a mental care facility having spent a dozen years in the residence because seeing new faces causes her to have an overwhelming attack that blacks her out for a day or two. We quickly learn that she has magical precognition abilities that she cannot control and w which over whelms her, and once Witch Central discovers her situation they work to get her out of the institution and try to help her learn to control her abilities. In this novel, Hannah’s powers are a danger to herself and to others, and despite their best intentions and knowledge Witch Central may not be able to help Hannah find her way to lead a normal life.
If you have ever known someone in the community who would probably better off without their psychic abilities, then you will most likely adore this novel. Hannah is no victim, but her abilities do severely limit her life. Her caregivers and her family have tried everything that science has to offer, but only the isolation of a mental institution seems to be only way to manage Hannah’s reaction to encountering new faces. As the story begins, Hannah is resigned to her life, and she has had her hopes for a more normal life crushed several times in the past. Thus, she is bit guarded when the witches burst into her life with their enthusiasm and optimism.
I generally choose not to review things that I cannot recommend. It is hard to write a book, and I’ve certainly never completed a novel, and so it hardly seems fair to attack an author’s work when the intent of the author is simply to tell a story that others might enjoy. “If you don’t like it, you can’t have any,” as the old Pagan saying goes. However, in the case of Practical Mischief, I am making an exception because there are a couple of issues within the novel that are relevant to Wicca in particular which seem worth pointing out and discussing.
Practical Mischief is meant to be a short, light novel in which the heroine Belle Bishop restores the magic and memory of her niece, Gia, which had been repressed through the curse of Belle’s sister, Angelica. All of the characters are Wiccan, but Angelica has rejected the Wiccan Rede and happily uses her magic to harm and manipulate others. In fact, Angelica, caused Gia’s mother Gaia to cross over to Summerland in a plot to make the Elves intervene in this world, and, ultimately, allow Angelica to become the Witch Queen instead of her other sisters. Let me be clear here, this novel does not present an inimical version of Wicca. In fact, the novel’s inclusion of the Tarot tends to be pretty spot on. But there are some serious flaws in Scott’s Wicca that could be solved by a simple visit to the appropriate Wikipedia page on the topic.
First of all, Wiccan Rede is presented eight times throughout the novel as, “An’ it harm none, do what thy will.” Now, there are several versions of the Rede out there, and the old-timey English of the Rede has always been a bit dubious if not entirely anachronistic, but none of the versions I’ve seen previously employ the possessive pronoun “thy”. Since “will” can be a verb or a noun, I suppose that the intent of this version is “do what thy will [tells you to do]“, but with “will” as verb (as is the case in all other variants of the Rede) the clause makes no sense whatsoever. Also, I guess Scott thought that “An” was really supposed to be a contraction of “And” rather than the “…archaic Middle English conjunction, meaning ‘if’”.
If that criticism is a bit of nit, then the second issue is slightly more substantive: the characters are uniformly wealthy, materialistic and into conspicuous consumption. Belle owns a yacht, and she and Gia wear designer togs and Louboutins. It’s all very aspirational and mainstream, and thoroughly misses the counter-cultural vibe of Wicca. Not that there have not been wealthy Wiccans: clearly, Gardner himself had a pretty good nest-egg when he returned from Malaysia to found Wicca. But even our wealthiest Pagans seem to focus their energy on other things. It’s like Scott has read a few books on the occult, and tried to fit the tradition into a particularly status-conscious YA novel. There’s no sense from the novel that she’s ever even met a Wiccan.
There are other problems with the novel as well that are more about the story-telling and structure of the novel, but it would be unkind to delve into them. I would only pray and request that authors choosing to include existing Pagan traditions like Wicca in their novels to do even the simplest research to learn at least little bit about us before hitting the publication button.
You might think from the title of this book that Easy Bake Coven was yet another entry in the recent mini-genre of witchy mysteries set in bakeries. In fact, however, Easy Bake Coven is a paranormal romance rather than a mystery, and features no baking whatsoever. The book does, however, share a markedly similar plot to the last book we looked at, How (Not) to Kiss a Prince, in that the heroine is a witch with a perfectly normal life and a boyfriend when a stranger from a magical realm arrives on the scene and insists that the two already have a relationship. The tone in this book is markedly different and the heroine makes an entirely different choice (hello hot elf and bye-bye human fiance in this case).
Selene has formed a lovely little coven with her four best friends from college. While the young witches do have some paranormal abilities, but their coven is, for once, nicely Pagan. Unfortunately, the coven is a relatively minor part of the novel which focuses more on Selene and Cheney, an Elven Prince and Selene’s husband from her previous life in faerie. Selene had chosen become a changeling, and start her life anew in our human world. (Why exactly anyone would expect marriage vows to hold beyond rebirth is not really made clear, but you kind of just go with it.) But there are still forces which have placed a bounty on Selene’s life, and Cheney has returned to her to protect her. Selene can only remember a few bits of her previous life, and so the central conflict of the novel is Selene’s wanting to remain the person she’s become over the last twenty-six years growing up as human versus being the previous Selene who was married to Cheney and embroiled in a revolution on behalf of humans and half-elves in the land of Faerie which has put the two in direct conflict with Cheney’s father, the Erlking.
Although there are not a lost of sex scenes, it is nice to read a book which actually depicts a hot, sexual relationship between the leads. Indeed, the vast majority of the novel is spent in the company of the two leads and focuses on their relationship. There’s more than a little of the trope of a heroine resisting her destiny and the love which is fated to be. But by the end Selene is enthusiastically committed to Cheney which may well not be the best news for either of them since the novel ends on cliff-hanger with a clear indication that Selene may well have been playing Cheney in her past life on behalf of the revolutionaries. Easy Bake Coven successfully places a paranormal romance into an actiony urban fantasy of political intrigue for the control of the realms of faerie.
How (Not) to Kiss a Prince is a worthy successor to the first Cindy Eller book, How (Not) to Kiss a Toad. Reeves is revealing a talent for placing her protagonist in an impossible situation and then turning the screw. Having finally overcome her unfortunately tendency to toadify any man she kisses, Cindy is enjoying her first relationship with Timothy, her beloved ice-cream magnate, when handsome Prince Justice Courage Phillippe Jacabo Thyme the Third (Justin, more informally) arrives at Cindy’s bakery and announces that because of a vow her mother made many years ago he and Cindy are betrothed, and since witch tradition dictates that the eldest daughter must marry first, they must be wed before Rose, one of Cindy’s sisters, whose wedding is slated to be held in two weeks. Thus, Cindy must manage starting up her bakery, preparing to cater for two weddings, finding time for her boyfriend, and figuring out how not to be forced to wed Justin.
If you know what Hyperbole and a Half is, then all I have to say is: she’s back.
If any of you are still here, then I still heartily recommend you get over there. The post is about depression. You will probably cry. You will almost certainly laugh. It will probably be a good time to do the ritual of your choice thereafter.
I have recently been covering a recent mini-trend of Mysteries about witches starting bakeries in the South. How (Not) to Kiss a Toad is completely differently: it’s Romcom about a witch starting a bakery in the South. In this case, at least, we’re out of Georgia and over to Tuscon, Arizona. Our heroine is Cindy Eller. (Yes, both the author and character know just how awful that name is, and, in fact, one of the running gags is that Cindy’s mother is a serial monogamist who has given her daughters a succession of awful names.) Cindy is a twenty-something working her first job as a baker, and living with her two BFFs and co-workers, Jessi and Tansy, with only one real impediment to an otherwise relatively care-free and happy life: every time she kisses a guy, he turns into a toad. Thus, How (not) to Kiss a Toad is light and charming variant of The Frog Prince.
The world-building here is similar to that of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, up to and including a Witch’s Council which governs the use of magic in the mundane world. Cindy is a witch, but her powers are far more limited than those of her mother and sisters. And if it were not for the unfortunate effect that her kisses have on her life, she would be content to do what she loves: creating confections using the unique flavors of the American Southwest.
Peach Pies and Alibis is the second book in Adams’ A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery Series the first of which was the charming Pies and Prejudice. I did not enjoy this book as well as the first because it veers significantly from the mystery genre towards paranormal fantasy with an unfortunately trite dualism. It is still a mystery: there is a murder to be solved, and we find out whodunnit. But the protagonist, Ella Mae LaFaye, does not particularly figure out who the murderer is, and, instead, she finds herself enmeshed in a centuries old conflict between the witches of her heritage and yet another secret organization of scenery-chewing psychopaths bent on ridding the world of witches. After the jump, I will spoil the plot in more detail for the sake of discussion, but I will not reveal the murderer (though I must say that I’m not typically invested in sussing out who the murderer is in these things before the big reveals and even I saw who it was long before the resolution).
A Celtic Witch is a story that nearly demands to have a soundtrack. The spell that draws witches into the growing community of Witch Central in Berkeley and Fisher’s Cove in Nova Scotia catches the attention of a star in the world of Celtic music, an Irish fiddler by the name of Cassidy Farrell whose fame seems to be on par with Loreena McKennitt or Ashley MacIsaac (if you watched the opening ceremonies of the Vancover Olympics you got to hear both of them, though, strangely, US broadcasters never showed McKennitt on screen). Cassidy is taking her annual break in Cape Breton when a recommendation leads her to the Sea Trance Inn in Fisher’s Cove.
More so than most books in the series, A Celtic Witch is a love story which in this case brings together Cassidy with Marcus, the protagonist of A Nomadic Witch. It’s not something either of the two are seeking: we are well aware of Marcus’ prickly demeanor at this point, and Cassidy has a highly success career and no desire whatsoever to settle down. But Cassidy has a rare witchy gift for hearing the rocks sing, and the magic practiced by the witches of Fisher’s Cove calls to a part of her which she has set aside for the sake of her career.