The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan

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Return to the world of A Secret History of Witches with the bewitching tale of Ursule Orchiere and her discovery of magical abilities that will not only change the course of her life but every generation that comes after her. 

Brittany, 1741

There hasn’t been a witch born in the Orchière clan for generations. According to the elders, that line is dead, leaving the clan vulnerable to the whims of superstitious villagers and the prejudices of fearmongering bishops.

Ursule Orchière has been raised on stories of the great witches of the past. But the only magic she knows is the false spells her mother weaves over the gullible women who visit their fortune-telling caravan. Everything changes when Ursule comes of age and a spark of power flares to life. Thrilled to be chosen, she has no idea how magic will twist and shape her future.

Guided by the whispers of her ancestors and an ancient grimoire, Ursule is destined to walk the same path as the great witches of old. But first, the Orchière magical lineage must survive. And danger hovers over her, whether it’s the bloodlust of the mob or the flames of the pyre.

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Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Started out intrigued, but my level of excitement was just not sustained in this one. I think those looking for fantasy historical fiction with the elements of witches, villages, pro-feminist tropes, adults who have deep appreciation for YA, and those who appreciate much description will enjoy this one.

Some people love to be smothered and sandwiched in descriptions at every whim. I do not.

I read this for The Poisoned Pen Bookstore Mystery Book-of-the-Month Club.

The Story
Started out interesting, then it went downhill from there and landed at the very bottom unfortunately.

I liked the direction it was going initially and how it set the stage for character traits and trades, and for forest atmosphere that is fitting to this time of year as autumnal. It captured me in that way and I really enjoyed the vernacular being historical 18th century.

However it sort of weaves in and out of human spirit in the sense it was hard to gauge story origination and where it was ultimately going. I skim read majority of it after about part 2, and in reading last chapters, didn’t feel like I missed out on much.

It was missing that allure of human reasoning at crossroads with witches and their ways. Less cohesive thoughts of what is mind over matter and what was going to be matter over mind. And though I certainly don’t think all books have some deep or hidden meaning to achieve this, but rather I think they need some acknowledgement and drive to keep it interesting for me, and centering around the reader as far as plot and reading experience in connection between the two.

Being born old with a young heart didn’t make much sense whether lack of maturity and wisdom, life stage, or aspirations. Didn’t make logical sense nor exemplify what I thought was going to be a unique and creative approach to problem-solving, reaction, or consequence fitting to her character in the way that I saw her.

Felt like a world trapped in fantasy and teenage angst, where the world of growing up is perceived as incredibly dangerous and scary, where even in survival or in comparison, is maladjusted. Without much dive into where and how did it start, or where and how can it be rectified, with or without witch entropy.

There were elements of smaller trials and quests but they lacked luster to that feeling of accomplishment and propulsion to keep me immersed in what qualities the main character had to offer aside from what had been told already within the first opening chapters of the book.

Often felt overly exaggerated, overly compensated in story direction and overly embellished in writing description, where end point had much style and effort put forth, but lacked substance and final satisfaction, and landed flat in my expectation of the story.

As a result this book felt much too long.

The Writing
Overall it was the voice got lost on me, felt mismatched at times. A very regressive, retroactive way to consume a story, but also shallow, so it wasn’t reflective thought that took me back, instead just felt painfully slow.

I thought when coming across the vignettes, they would be like glue, going peak to peak in the book, or low to low, providing some sort of reflection, perspective, pondering of thought, additional context, or historical background, instead these in-between sections only added more of the same.

Pacing
Again, too slow for my taste. I generally enjoy books that zoom in and zoom out pending the part of the plot that is being portrayed, from high-action to meandering, like I was expecting during the altercation scenes and main character taking in the village surroundings, but this one was overly descriptive at every turn so it felt like a standstill without much propulsion forward, not keeping my attention. Not much difference in progression at all points, all seemed similar in fashion to what they did day to day.

Tone
Tone was a bit bitter, less magical and dynamic than I hoped it would be. Maybe that was purposeful? Maybe because it was missing backstory to support the type of child (and mother) they both came out to be? I felt like we never got to the core of the issues or the core of origin story, and so in the end, even the strong character as depicted ended up feeling mundane, even when stakes would have been naturally high, because I wasn’t sure what she had to lose because it was less established in the first place.

Descriptions
The descriptions were not all terrible in some places, in fact some were very well-constructed, melting me into the scene.

However they were overly done in two ways, which is just not my preferred taste in overall enjoyment of a book. Overly detailed in and of themselves as well as placement.

It felt like in some parts of the scene, characteristics were thrown in very last minute without regard to telling cohesive story. Where the entry point to build story was captured as part of the story drawing me in at first, but then followed by too many additional descriptions of that same scene that were then overly embellished, codified, and placed after the fact. Especially because I was ready to move on by this point.

As a result, I felt like many ended up reading like this: I pulled open the door because it had a handle… I ran down the flight of stairs, there were many steps. Step by step lowering myself as I descended, I felt myself headed downwards…

This feeling of being in the scene as described which started out just fine and lovely, but then an interaction would occur, followed by another long-winded description that overly reinforced the same scene. Felt very oh by the way and need to add something more here. Killed the suspense and smothered the intrigue. Especially when it came to the use of many color adjectives.

Started out as enticing but not a sense of full picture as complete as it would have been to set the scene for what you would want to immerse yourself in, as becoming part of it, instead of spectator. Rather we’re being told more about it later when that scene and emotional feeling had already ran its course.

Sort of talks around scenes, starting out, then finishing by attempting to capture it all on the back end, wrapping around and tidying the scene after the fact.

Which oddly enough, I find is sort of how I felt about the overall plot.

Maybe this is a feeling I get from what I saw as matter of convenience writing. Overly framed, so much so that it takes me out of the story. It doesn’t have to be linear at all times. But, rather than a cohesive draw, starting solid, and in this one, became too happenstance, stitching it all together after the fact, randomly dropped into it and figuring it out as you go in a disorganized fashion, then realizing maybe the substance was just not there all along.

Characters
Aside from her witch antics, the main character didn’t really have much else to offer. She was overly burdened with both unassigned intrinsic and extrinsic value that was not much clarified to exact nature and how she would exactly prove or overcome. A lot of rally, but felt like misplaced fight. Nonconformist litany throughout the book that felt a bit disconnected to the character of the book. Though strong and oppositional to forces holding her back, it lost backstory and foresight into the family structure and her future that would have been supported by some sort of origin story that just wasn’t to be found as I read on.

I’d be curious to read another one by this author.

View all my reviews

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