“She cast a spell on me with this book.” – THE WITCH AND THE FAITHLESS by Polly J. Mordant reviewed

It is our third visit to the supernaturally-afflicted village of Flammark and we find our gifted hero Emma Blake in a state of turmoil. Her dear friend (and local priest) Will Turner has gone awol, leaving her bereft, and the village has been issued with a replacement priest (the faithless of the title?) who immediately proceeds to rub everyone up the wrong way. And if all that isn’t enough, Emma’s gloriously foul-mouthed detective boyfriend Westen is neck-deep in a multiple murder investigation.

Yes, there is a serial killer on the loose, and they’re exclusively targeting teenage girls. But this is no ordinary, common-or-garden, run-of-the-mill, hack-n-slash serial killer. No, this one buries his or her victims alive, apparently with their compliance, and then makes their parents oblivious to the fact that their offspring are even missing, let alone lying dead in a hole in the ground somewhere.

Oh, and an ancient witch has apparently risen and has attached itself to Emma.

Sound strange and inexplicable? Well, this is the anti-Dibley, after all.

The Witch and the Faithless is absolutely, totally and completely the best of the Flammark series so far. As a supernatural thriller it ticks all the boxes and more by being exciting, thoughtful, compelling, deep and even – yes – educational. Seriously, I learned a lot about witches and folk mythology in these pages.

The characters are all, of course, engaging and likeable, except for the ones who aren’t supposed to be likable, but the star of the show for my money is the titular witch. When she makes her first appearance it’s genuinely electrifying. Also, this witch is considerably more than the usual cackling, spell-casting hag of trope. I love what the author has conjured up here, rooting her in the landscape and pagan lore. And despite her terrifying initial appearance, as her back story is uncovered Mordant pulls off the impressive feat of making the reader feel sympathetic for her.

Hats off for that one.

Actually, I’m starting to wonder if Polly J. Mordant herself might be a witch, especially after she cast such a spell on me with this book. In a footnote she promises further instalments and I say hurrah! My bags are already packed and Flammark awaits.

Published by Richard E. Rock

Cat-loving, headbanging author of the dark and fantastical.

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