Read on for dueling reviews of The Water Witch by Juliet Dark!
Reviewed by A.D. Cole
In this sequel to Juliet Dark’s The Demon Lover, college professor and fairy-slash-witch, Callie McFay, continues exploring her powers and learning about the unique community of Fairwick where humans and preternatural creatures coexist. Having found out, in the previous book, that she is doorkeeper to what might be the last door into Faerie, Callie now holds in her hands the fate of the creatures who use that door to travel between Faerie and Fairwick.
In The Water Witch, Callie’s position as doorkeeper puts her at the center of conflict between a group of witches called The Grove, who want the door closed forever, and the preternaturals, who require regular visits to Faerie to replenish their energy. At the same time, she’s distracted with other side items like trying to save Brock, her Norse god handyman who is in a magical coma; coming to terms with her feelings for her incubus ex-boyfriend, Liam; and figuring out how to unlock the barriers preventing her from accessing all her power.
Unfortunately, deciphering the strings of story line in this loosely strung-together, convoluted plot, is quite a challenge. I can only call it a plot because there is, in fact, a beginning and an end. But throughout the story, we lose sight of it and are left meandering in this world that makes no sense and wondering what the point of all of this is. There is no forward momentum, no sense of urgency, no incentive to turn the next page.
The reason I say the story makes no sense is this: in an urban fantasy, the author takes on the daunting task of building a fantastical world and then presenting that world to the reader in such a way that she can understand the “rules” of the world early in the story. This does not happen in The Water Witch. In fact, the main character doesn’t even understand the rules of her own world. She bumbles through, creating disaster as a result of her failure to educate herself despite the fact that the knowledge she needs is readily available. Leaving me to conclude that this character is either extremely lazy, or just plain dim.
Furthermore, the answers to her crises are too easy. She wants to know how to remove the barriers blocking her power. Suddenly she’s given a book which she opens and wham…there’s the magic spell. She wants to identify the true nature of someone who is disguised…well what do you know, there’s a magic spell for that on the next page. And the all-consuming question of how to keep the Faerie door open…the answer pops up right there in front of her. It’s a bit like playing an imaginary game with a child in which the child makes up the rules as he goes.
I am certain that there are many who will read and love this book. The idea for Fairwick is compelling. And the author is gifted at creating realistic sensory details. But for me, the shortcomings vastly outweighed the redeeming qualities.
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Reviewed by Drennan Spitzer
Juliet Dark, pen name for author Carol Goodman, tells the story of Callie McFey and her attempt to keep open the threshold to the supernatural world of Faerie while battling a murderous Undine, or water spirit, in the stunning novel The Water Witch. Callie is an academic, a professor at Fairwick College in the Catskills of New York. But she is also a half-witch, half-fey young woman who has yet to come into her powers. As Callie confronts those witches who would close the door to Faerie, the world of the fey, she must also confront an incubus from her past. This incubus attempts to woo Callie, but it is unclear whether his wooing springs from genuine love for Callie of whether it is part of his attempt to somehow feed off of Callie and become human by devouring her. Clearly a fantasy, The Water Witch is definitely not for young readers, as some of the sex scenes are graphic.
Like many good fantasies, The Water Witch suggests the possibility that Faerie, the world of the supernatural is somehow just around the corner. The village of Fairwick, where Callie resides, is populated by a number of supernatural creatures, borrowed from folk traditions from all over the world. Here, we encounter Norse myth and Indian legend, as well as the more familiar character types from English folklore. Because these characters are borrowed from world myth and folklore, they feel somehow familiar. And placing them in the quiet, sleepy corner of the Catskills that houses the college suggests that these beings could also reside in our own backyards. This is certainly part of the appeal of The Water Witch.
Callie’s struggle to come to terms with the incubus from her past, with her perceived inability to love, and with relationships generally speaks to the anxieties many women, particularly feminists, may have about relationships, particularly with men. The presence of Liam, the incubus who attempts to seduce Callie, reflects the all-too-common fear of being devoured by a lover. Callie fears that if she loves him, she will somehow lose herself, but she also fears what will happen if she is unwilling or simply unable to love. Callie both desires and fears intimate relationships in ways that are particularly authentic, especially for her character. Callie’s sense of powerlessness is brought to the fore by the fact that as both witch and fey, she is yet to come into her power. This “binding” of her supernatural power is, for Callie, wrapped up in her feeling bound to the incubus. This further illustrates the theme of the female feeling powerless when she considers loving a male. This is a theme that should certainly resonate in our culture.
The Water Witch is particularly well written. Goodman’s writing style—word choice, syntax, sentence structure—mark the novel as literary without being overwrought. There’s something elegant about the writing, a kind of grace that lacks the heavy self-consciousness too often found in literary fiction. In this regard, as in so many others, this book is simply delightful.
The Water Witch is the second book in The Fairwick Chronicles trilogy. Reading it has made me motivated to pick up the first in the series, as I’m waiting for the final installment, The Hallowed Door. While The Water Witch may not appeal to all readers—some certainly don’t like fantasy—it is a lovely example from the genre. Well written, thoughtful, and engaging, The Water Witch is a win for readers who appreciate this kind of work.
Drennan Spitzer is a writer and blogger from California who now resides in New England. She writes creatively, blogs publicly, and journals privately. You can find her at http://drennanspitzer.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ballantine Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.