A Secret History of Witches
Surprising no one, another witch book!
A power handed down from mother to daughter is followed through history for five generations. Grandmere Ursule saves her tribe with the Old Ways, and her granddaughter steps into a circle to inherit her powers. From there to WWII, follow the stories of five witches and the different ways they use their abilities.
Starting with Nanette, she was hella snubbed. She gets 57 pages, and then a brief showing in Ursule’s story. She doesn’t get any characterization, probably because she has 5 sisters and an uncle get it all. I realize that every story starts somewhere, but Nanette really drew the short straw.
Ursule has 95 pages, and she puts a sour taste in my mouth. When Ursule had an affair with Sebastian and then she and Nanette make the potion for Morcum, that was fucked up. That was beyond fucked up. I don‘t agree with him going batshit and throwing Nanette off a cliff, but he had a right to be angry and instead is painted as the villain. I mean, he shouldn’t have thrown an old woman off the cliff, but also Nanette and Ursule shouldn’t have essentially raped him. It’s disgusting and the whole situation makes my skin crawl. Ursule gets more characterization than her mom, but it’s not good characterization.
That bitch Irene got a whopping 58 pages. Her only character trait is that she’s a bitch. Ursule goes from being this hardworking gal to a complete pushover. Irene is super abusive towards her mother, and she’s selfish, as she’s described so many times. It isn’t good writing, since these characters are seemingly defined by one trait.
Morwen’s story is when things get a little better. You find out what Irene had to give up for her power, and Irene couldn’t give a flying fuck. She is out for her and her alone. This section is really fast-paced with a lot of moving parts and scene changes with a gigantic horse. At least Morwen is pretty well-rounded, as opposed to her ancestresses, which is to be expected from her 114 pages. Anyways, she’s cute.
And then with the last 133 pages, Veronica is introduced, and things are looking up! It’s Veronica and Morwen up against some Nazis, defeating them with magic and everything, right? Nope. Morwen died, and Veronica doesn’t know anything about her magic until she talks to her grandfather about her visions of the war and her brother’s death. Unfortunately, Veronica’s story lacks as much as the first three stories. Her friend Phillip is so under-described that when he dies, you don’t feel anything. The same thing happens with Thomas, the brother. He’s only described as sweet or kind, whenever he’s mentioned. And I mean EVERY time he’s mentioned. It’s never explained why Ynyr survived past Morwen and only died when Jago died. And the biggest disappointment of all is the fact that Queen Elizabeth I is apparently a witch. I call bullshit. It‘s one thing when it’s, say, Shadow of Night, which is magic and history written by someone who did her research, and another thing when Queen Elizabeth I is the only historical figure mentioned, and it ruined the story for me. It took me out of the story and it might as well have ended there. Finally, the fact that Veronica is punished for making a very valid choice for abortion? It sucks, and there’s not even a decent explanation. She’s a powerful witch, but because she chose not to have a baby out of wedlock in the 1940s during a fucking war, she doesn’t get to have children at all.
What did I like? Morgan did her research, even if the “historical” part of the historical-fiction didn’t really come into play until the end, and even then not in anything greater than vague details and stuff everyone knows about WWII. I liked the witchcraft. The Sabbats, and the Wheel of the Year, were all done wonderfully, even if Morgan was again very vague with details (it takes one Google search to get enough details to fill a book, and several have been written on the subject). I would’ve preferred more details overall, but maybe that’s just me.
Trigger warnings: violence, hate crime, infidelity, animal death, death, misogyny