NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you Redhook Publications and netgalley.com. Scheduled Publication Date: February 15, 2022.
Author Louisa Morgan has written a series of historical novels about witches, but this is the first I’ve read. I generously gave it four stars on Goodreads.
It takes place in France between the years 1762-1820, spanning both the French Revolution and Reign of Terror— though neither plays a huge role. It’s MOSTLY an action-packed story (that I enjoyed reading), following the life of Ursule Orchière. Born into a Romani family, Ursule soon shows herself to possess much more “magic” than her theatrical, fortune-telling mother Agnes. Ursule actually HAS the gift of sight.
But society at this time is not kind to outliers. Circumstances (no spoilers, promise) eventually force Agnes and Ursule to leave their wandering community and settle permanently on a modest farm in the remote countryside, run by a big-hearted farmer named Remy and his bitter wife Madeleine. Conflicts with Madeleine ebb and flow over the years as Ursule’s family expands and as she gains mastery over her powers and skills. All the while navigating the dual threats posed by widespread prejudice against Romani AND religiously-fueled witch-hunting.
Ursule’s story offers plenty of drama — attempted rape, love affairs, witch burnings, jealousies, personal and social rejection, marriages, and frequent childbearing. Ursule uses her talent to ease suffering and ensure the safety for those she loves. So, this is NOT a novel about the Devil and evil witchcraft. Because while Ursule DOES have SOME ability to see into the future, most of her “spells” come from documented knowledge in the family Grimoire she inherited about ways to apply herbs and plants to commonplace situations.
THE GREAT WITCH OF BRITTANY is a plot-driven historical novel. The writing is certainly serviceable. It carries the reader along, but isn’t anything special. In fact, there were quite a few times when I felt the pace was rather uneven and the plot wandering. But, overall, I enjoyed what turned out to be a story about extended family, as much as it is about witches.
More about the author, Louisa Morgan, aka Louisa Marley.