Review of Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell (Tor.com Sept 8, 2015)
This is the story of the inhabitants of a small English village and how they kept some unscrupulous big box executives from conning the town into allowing them to move into the town center. The story has several viewpoint characters: Judith, the elderly witch with the not completely gone dead husband; Lizzie, the town vicar who grew up here and only recently returned; and Lizzie’s childhood friend Autumn, the owner of the magic shop who is not quite sure whether she believes in magic. Lizzie and Autumn both had traumatic experiences while away from each other and both felt that the other wasn’t there when they needed someone to listen. They discover over the course of the story that it was neither one’s fault; life was just throwing them unfortunate circumstances.
The village is at the center of multiple crossing ley lines, and the town boundaries were magically enforced to keep out the neighboring magical realms, including the one Autumn visited but fled when she saw the true nature of the beings there. The bad guys want to disrupt these protections so that chaos will erupt and they can take advantage of this to gain wealth and minions. The setting feels like an English version of a Charles de Lint story location: modern but quaint, with magic and magicians hidden in plain sight, and experiencing occasional incursions by magical beings from otherworldly locations.
The good guys have to pull together in order to defeat the bad guys, of course, but how this is done and who has the magical knowledge needed to do it is quite a surprise. Everyone steps up their game in their own way, but the results are unexpected in many ways. Hopefully Paul Cornell will use this interesting magical village for more stories and we can see everyone again. This modern village fantasy has a different feel than his fiction set in London, it has some urban fantasy concepts but the setting feels more comforting and quaint with a tinge of darkness around the edges rather than the crowded, dark, scary feel of most urban fantasy.
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