I am not a fan of fantasy .. I like my novels entrenched in the real world and can’t be doing with witches, wizards or vampires (Harry Potter excluded!) so while The Witches of Dark Root, which was recommend by a friend, intrigued me I did approach it with some trepidation, and for the first few chapters my resistance to all things Magick looked set to be proved correct. Yet once I overcame my prejudice about this kind of thing, I was reeled into the storyline and enjoyed learning about the witchy sisters Merry, Maggie and Eve.
The story begins with Maggie at Wood Haven, a cultish religious community founded by her boyfriend Michael. Being completely non-religious my heart sank at this point as I thought this was going to be the focus of the book, and I was very relieved when I realised it wasn’t! Maggie discovers that Michael is having an affair with another cult member, the poisonous Leah. Coincidentally a message has come from home that her mother is ill so, with the help of her friend Jason, she decides to leave Wood Haven and pay her family a visit – the first since she left several years earlier. (By the by, I thought Jason seemed rather sweet and was puzzled why Maggie didn’t spend more time with him – they seemed perfect for each other!)
When she arrives home Maggie discovers that Dark Root, once a bustling town, has fallen on hard times, apparently because of the illness of her mother. Though she’s delighted to be reunited with her sisters (and new found niece) after so many years, Maggie is adamant this is only a flying visit …. But when it’s suggested that they organise the annual Halloween festival in an attempt to breathe new life into the town, she feels she has to stay, and when the sisters discover there’s an ancient curse on their home they learn how to use their Magick for good and overcome demons and family mysteries.
I think what worked for me in this book is that it’s not so much about witches and Magick as about family bonds and sisterly love – the Magick is just an element of their Iives rather than the focal point. In fact, despite being anti-fantasy I think I’d have liked to learn a bit more about the sisters’ abilities and how they had first discovered them! I felt the characters of the sisters came through strongly – Maggie, Merry and Eve were all very different. And I loved June Bug, though their Aunt Dora, with her strange way of speaking, annoyed me. I also felt there were characters who needed further development – Leah, for example, is key to the main plot yet never came across very strongly and bows out like a damp squib. There were also some events that should have been a big shock or surprise that were just accepted without a second thought, which struck me as a bit strange, but overall I did enjoy this book and will definitely look out for the rest of the series.