The Honey Witch

THE HONEY WITCH by Sydney J. Shields

Orbit Books. h/b. £18.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

As she celebrates her one-hundredth birthday, Althea knows her time is coming to an end. But with her daughter long moved away, who will protect Innisfree when she is gone?

On her way to Sir Kentworth’s ball, dressed in a hand-me-down dress because she refused to entertain discussions of a new one, Marigold Claude is twenty-one, unmarried, and still refusing to bow to society’s expectations of her, much to her mother’s dismay. But Marigold fancied herself in love once, and look how that turned out. Although it may seem her mother’s latest introduction is not as bad as she expected, Marigold may still entertain the idea of a marriage.

Marigold, the older sibling of highly talented twins, has always felt that she did not fit into Bardshire society. She always felt there must be something else for her. She did not sing or paint well, but for some reason, she can make excellent cures, she can read the weather, and she dreams, dreams that come true.

The Honey Witch centres on Marigold as she discovers that not only is she, in fact, a Honey Witch, with all the abilities and burdens that come along with its magic, but she is also under a curse. An ash witch is out to destroy her and her family’s legacy, and Marigold will have little time to study and hone her craft before she has to face that threat alone.

Bardshire society conjures up the glossy, showy and shallow aspects of Bridgerton, and Shields very quickly evokes and imposes Austen-like constraints on Marigold as our female protagonist. In that sense, this book gives a time-old tale a more modern polish, and it is, in a way, regretful that the reader has to leave the absurdities and characters of Bardshire behind for Mari’s journey to the island where her magic and her story is concentrated.

Perhaps because of the stylisation, the dialogue does feel stilted at times, and on occasion, the character interactions sit slightly at odds with the general softness of the prose and the depth of the description. As the narrative progresses, Mari faces loneliness, grief, guilt, and familial strife and is forced into resilient survival from threats both natural and supernatural. She is every bit the young and vulnerable character we would expect to see in this kind of fantasy, and her story is handled with a delicate, nurturing and cosy touch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

19 + 2 =