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 others, 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 was the perfect read for a winter night. With a multi-generational narrative, plenty of history, and a dose of romance, The Silver Witch held my interest and kept me turning those pages. Not to mention it had a ghost story that captured me for the entire book and was extremely well done.
The story predominantly follows Tilda; a woman who has lost her husband and now lives alone in the house they bought together in the middle of the Brecon Beacons. Living an isolated life, Tilda is trying to put the pieces back together. Tilda then begins to experience visions; of an albino woman, an angry witch, and snapshots from another world. Tilda’s point of view was told in third person, with the other narrative point of view from Seren told in first person.
I loved having the dual perspective from the two women – one in Celtic Wales and the other in the modern day – but I found the change from third person to first person quite jumbled. I much preferred Seren’s tale – the tale of how she fell in love with a prince, of her isolated life, of her unique position in her community, of the corrag, all of it – though Seren’s chapters were the smaller sections. It was these chapters that truly gripped me, though that may be due to the fact that I’m a historical fiction reader at heart.
The plot was fast paced from both parallel plots, with spooky goings on in Tilda’s chapters, to the growing tensions at court in Seren’s. It was an extremely quick read, and one that was rewarding. The downfall of the fast pace was that the plot sometimes suffered. At times, it felt as if some scenes were passed over too quickly and that certain plot lines weren’t resolved. Seren’s chapters, as I mentioned above, felt too short. As the character with extremely interesting traits and a moving story, we didn’t get to know her as well as we got to know Tilda. So, when the two plots did cross over, it felt a lot less genuine.
One thing is certain though; this is a chilling, bewitching and enchanting tale of magic, love and loss that is the perfect read for the darker evenings. It was great to read outside of my usual go-to genres and to read a story with a multi-generational narrative. Paula Brackston has done a great job with the setting and atmosphere, making it so you can almost feel the chill of the air around you.
Recommended for those long winter nights!