Review: ‘The Return of the Witch’ by Paula Brackston

Blurb from GoodReads.com: 

After five years in the Summerlands, Gideon has gained his freedom. Elizabeth knows he will go straight for Tegan, and that she must protect the girl she had come to regard as her own daughter. In the time since she the dramatic night in Batchcombe woods, Tegan has travelled the world learning from all manner of witches, and she is no longer the awkward teenager and novice spellcaster she once was. However, her skills are no match for Gideon’s dark, vengeful power, and he succeeds in capturing her. Will Elizabeth be able to find her? Will they be able to defeat their nemisis once and for all?

In a breathless journey that takes them through history, witch pursues warlock. Three people steeped in magic weave a new story, but not all will survive until the end.

Review: 

I have to admit I was really pretty darn disappointed with ‘The Return of the Witch’ (TROTW). Its predecessor, ‘The Witch’s Daughter’ I found fairly enjoyable but overall underwhelming, and the ending (SPOILER: sending the villain, snarky and seductive Gideon, to the mystical ‘Summerlands’) was disappointing. I wanted a dark, bloody battle between witch and warlock, not Gideon getting beamed up into an astral dimension. Yet, I gave this sequel a go because ON PAPER it should have so many things I love reading about: strong, shrewd female characters, magic, romance, myth, comparisons with Deborah Harkness’s ‘A Discovery of Witches‘…yup, it’s all there. Except that, it isn’t. In TROTW, hedgewitch Elizabeth and her apprentice Tegan are so pure and moralistic they reminded me of the Good Witch from ‘The Wizard of Oz’- pretty and gold-hearted but impossible, really, to relate to, or even like very much. We are told, early on, that Tegan is also- shock horror- a very powerful witch, but we never really see any indication of it, or any real indication of magic, apart from Elizabeth flapping her hands about and pottering with some herbs.

Tegan also apparently scrapes a living by selling oils, candles and whatnot, and yet somehow manages to finance a round-the-world trip learning from shamans and mystics. I wish we could all have such a comfortable, happy life pootling about in pretty country cottages making lovely oils and candles to sell at country fairs, and then somehow jetting off around the world on a whim, but alas. There was one vaguely intriguing bit when a wizened old Druid-spirit pushed Tegan off a cliff, and I thought, ‘AHA, she’s going to turn bitter and sneakily eeeeevil thanks to the Druid’s betrayal.’ But NOPE.  Tegan FLEW to safety- probably buoyed up by that pure, good heart of hers. She’s meant to be an ‘interesting’ ‘spirited’ character but she felt just as 1D AS Elizabeth. We don’t really get to experience the joy of her flying, the thrill of magic…the thrill of anything, really. For me, the whole book is safe- too safe, too predictable. It kind of reminded me of Laure Eve’s ‘The Graces’– interesting premise, but not written in a way that I found enjoyable.

TROTW’s major flaw for me is that it is underwritten. The characters are tropes, almost stereotypical…the wise hedgewitch, the evil sexual-predator warlock, the spirited apprentice…YAWN.

At some points, I was also practically begging for more description- what does Elizabeth actually look like, for example? What do the Summerlands look like- apart from being, well, summery? The most interesting character is Gideon, and he’s hardly in it. Why he would also want to chase after Elizabeth and Tegan is, also somewhat mystifying because quite frankly, they’re a bit boring. All in all, this was not for me. If you’re looking for magic, romance and time travel, I would recommend Deborah Harkness’s books instead.

Overall rating: 2.5 out of 10

Favourite character: Hmmm…none of them, really. Apologies to any Paula Brackston fans out there, but this was not my cup of tea, so I’d basically only recommend this if you are already fans of Brackston’s work.

Image via Tumblr

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