BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: Dead Witch on a Bridge


Title: Dead Witch on a Bridge (Witches of Sonoma Book One)

Publisher: Eton Field

Author: Gretchen Galway

Pages: 338pp

Price: $14.99 / $3.99

Alma Bellrose is a hearth witch. Her magic works through wood and herbs -- unlike so many other modern witches, who are obsessed with metals and precious gems. Alma prefers the old ways; she would rather work with her magic then force and control it. Unfortunately, that makes her completely unfit to work for the Protectorate, the paranormal policing agency which (quietly) keeps humans and fae alike safe from demons and other malevolent powers. After her disastrous first mission, when she is unable to kill a demon, she is exiled to northern California. And so she finds herself broke, with few friends and allies, when the local Protector is killed, the fae rise up in revolt, and the sacred wellspring itself is threatened ....

Dead Witch on a Bridge was another lucky find on netgalley. I read the description, immediately downloaded it, and added it to the top of my To Read queue. Needless to say, I will definitely be reading each successive book in the series as Galway releases them.

Alma is a fantastic character. She's a complete softy, loyal to a fault, and tries to always see the best in people. Unfortunately, she also knows just how rotten people can be: her mother abandoned her as an infant, her father is a career thief, and the Protectorate is filled with power-hungry bureaucrats. Being exiled to Sonoma turned out to be a good thing for her: she discovered what her magic can really do. Other witches might look down on the old ways, but Alma has learned to work with wood and flowers and herbs and water, and, in so doing, figured out that her magic is a lot more powerful than anyone realized; it's just not the sort of magic that appeals to the Protectorate.

Plus, she got to make friends with a gnome.

I love the magical system that Galway has developed. Every witch has an inner witchwell, the source of power for their magic. Traditional hearth witches like Alma (and her persnickety mentor, Helen) channel their power through living objects, allowing their power to ebb and flow, come and go. Unfortunately, due to the influence of the Protectorate, most modern witches prefer to contain their magic in precious metals and gemstones, doing whatever it takes to bind and control it.

That same need for control extends to the fae. Never mind that the fae are perfectly capable of defending themselves against just about any threat (even demons, and Alma is beginning to wonder just how many of the demons executed by the Protectorate over the years actually were demons). No, the Protectorate has set itself up as the guardian authority of the paranormal world, and will do whatever it takes to keep humans in the dark, the fae isolated to natural areas, the demons dead and gone, and themselves in power.

Which all ties back to the wellspring and the murder of the local Protector ....

Dead Witch on a Bridge was a heck of a lot of fun: great characters, solid world-building, a neat magical system, and an engaging mystery. Plus a real live lawn gnome. And a cute dog.

Highly recommended to fans of paranormal mysteries, as well as fans of Clara Coulson's Frost Arcana, Helen Harper's Slouch Witch, the Witchcraft Mystery series by Juliet Blackwell, and In Plain Sight by Dan Willis. 


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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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