The Witch’s Tears

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for The Witch’s Kiss. You can read my review of this novel [here].

The Witch’s Tears was written by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr and first published in 2017. It focuses on the continuing adventures of a teenage witch, as she struggles to overcome the death of someone she cared about and learn how to control her powers. The novel follows on shortly after its prequel – The Witch’s Kiss (2016) – left off, and so you really do need to read the novels in sequence to fully appreciate them. The final instalment of the trilogy, The Witch’s Blood, is due for release next month.

Merry still has nightmares about the battle beneath the lake and the terrible sacrifice that she was forced to make. She had believed that everything would get better after Gwydion was destroyed, but that has not happened. She still struggles to perform even the simplest of spells and is growing increasingly isolated by the Coven, many of whom view her as a freak and a danger to them all. Worse still Leo has begun to isolate himself following Dan’s death, straining his friendship with Merry.

When Leo is savagely attacked by a former friend, he is fortunately saved by a mysterious wanderer named Ronan. When Ronan reveals himself to be a wizard, Merry is instantly suspicious of him. Her Gran has always told her the wizards are not to be trusted and her experiences with Gwydion seem to have proven that. However, Ronan makes Leo the happiest he has been in a long time and so Merry agrees not to tell their mother about him.

However, something sinister is targeting members of the magical community. Someone is viciously killing powerful witches, with no seeming motivation or pattern to their attacks. Soon after, Merry’s Gran vanishes from her home and Merry fears the worse. The Coven take this opportunity to block Merry out altogether, refusing to allow her to help in the search. As the Coven show up no leads with their traditional magic, Merry realises that she has no choice but to use forbidden spells to help search for her Gran’s location. However, in doing so she risks her life and those of everyone that she holds dear…

When I read The Witch’s Kiss a few weeks ago, my opinion on it was a little bit mixed. While it was a strong debut novel that contained some nice ideas, I couldn’t overlook some of the heavy exposition and the slightly awkward way in which it was structured. I’m very pleased to say that The Witch’s Tears was a much stronger novel that resolved many of the issues that I had with the first book. However, before I begin, I should probably note that it’s also a bit darker than the first book. While the King of Heart’s modus operandi was pretty unpleasant in The Witch’s Kiss, virtually everything that he did happened off page. This time, the reader sees a lot more. Not enough to make it inappropriate for younger readers, but still enough to make the read a little more intense and frightening.

The Witch’s Tears allows the reader to get a much firmer grasp on how magic works in this world. Despite how it felt at times in the first book with Gran’s vast secret Coven, it’s not something that just anyone can do and the power runs in families. However, it’s not enough just to have the power. You need the support of a Coven to teach you how to channel it, through the use of ritual and song. Without this, a young witch runs the risk of hurting herself, or even damaging the fabric of reality.

Sounds good, right? Well, it’s actually not so great. The Witch’s Tears does a great job at emphasising the downsides of being a witch. Namely, the clique nature of Coven life. The reader gets the feel that witch society is so steeped in its rituals that it has not evolved in centuries. Witches will spend hours doing a simple spell “the right way”, when Merry has figured out ways to perform these spells in minutes, and insist on keeping handwritten, personal journals rather than digitising their knowledge so it’s accessible to all witches.

They are also not the most welcoming bunch. Despite the fact that the Coven supposedly exists as a safety network, they are only really interested in supporting young witches who conform to their very strict and archaic rules. Those, like Merry, who prove to be different are given the cold shoulder and pretty much shunned by those who could easily help them. The witches are also incredibly sexist, historically treating wizards as trash and labelling the lot of them as untrustworthy. This practice is pretty horrific and leads to all manner of problems, as this novel reveals.

In terms of structure, The Witch’s Tears felt far more solid. While it still takes a while to find it’s feet, the witch murders add a really sinister undercurrent to tale that made me curious to read on. Merry first learns about the killings in a newspaper report, which is soon followed by the appearance of strange wizards around the town and the disappearance of a couple of people close to her. This is capped by the fact that both Merry and Leo are having odd dreams – ones that seem to be drawing them back to the lake – which gave me the growing sense that perhaps their ordeal with Gwydion still was not over…

The book also helped to keep my interest by being less exposition heavy this time around. As the narrative follows both Leo and Merry, the reader is allowed to witness far more of the key events. I personally felt that this was a lot better than the previous novel, where important happenings often occurred off-page and had to be related back to Merry later through dense dialogue. While it still took a long time for the threads to start to come together, I did find that it was difficult to put the book down as I was curious to find what was at the heart of all of the dark happenings.

However, the book still isn’t one that I’d recommend to fans of faster-paced fantasy stories. Although there is magic in the tale, it’s more about the characters than flashy displays of power. The book also ends on an incredibly abrupt cliff-hanger, which is never something that I’m wild about. It really cut the story off in mid-flow, leaving it feeling rather incomplete as a lot of threads were left hanging for resolution in the final book.

The characters of the story are all still very strong and felt genuine, but I do feel that they have the potential to alienate fans of the previous instalment. Personally, I really liked both Leo and Merry’s character development. While they do feel like entirely different people this book (Leo in particular), this felt like a realistic response to the trauma that they endured. Both of them are grieving a lost love, and added to this is the fact that a lot of Leo’s former friends abandoned him when he came out in The Witch’s Kiss. Because of this, both of their character arcs take a bit of a dark turn as they are forced to face some pretty grim truths about themselves. While their relationship was very close in The Witch’s Kiss, this time the cracks are starting to form and they argue frequently.

The secondary cast of the story are also incredibly complex. Although we don’t fully get to appreciate the villains plan due to the cliff-hanger, it is clear that he is a monster created largely by the old-fashioned mentality of witch society, which gives him far clearer motivation than Gwydion had.

The only character point that I felt was a little weak was the way that Finn was introduced. Much like with Jack in the previous book, Merry started to have feelings for him alarmingly fast. She’d known him for mere days before she seemed to have forgotten her heartbreak and fallen for him completely, which felt rather weak. At least Leo’s relationship felt a lot stronger. While he is attracted to Ronan from the start, their relationship takes a long time to develop and thus felt far more natural, especially given Leo’s depression following Dan’s death.

Anyhow, I think that covers everything. The Witch’s Tears is a very strong instalment that did a great job of resolving many of the weakness that I found in The Witch’s Kiss. I am really looking forward to seeing how everything ties up when the final instalment is released in a few weeks time.

The Witch’s Tears can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Witch’s Blood | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: YA Shot 2018 Tour – Featuring Katharine and Elizabeth Corr | Arkham Reviews
  3. Trackback: The Sobeks 2018 – Part 1 | Arkham Reviews

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