As a reader of Paula Brackston's other novels--I would not say that I was exactly a fan, I found her newest offering, "The Midnight Witch" extremely disappointing. While Brackston's other "witch" books, specifically "The Witch's Daughter," and "The Winter Witch" engaged the reader from the very first page, "Midnight Witch" fails to compel the reader to even get passed the first page.
Brackston's work tends to be a bit predictable--in Winter Witch, the nemesis is guessed from pretty much the start--in Witch's Daughter, the story repeats itself as the witch in question constantly reinvents herself and creates a new life as the centuries march forward--forever keeping an eye on her very personal villain who trails her throughout the ages. Rather than fashion characters that envelop you intimately within their story, in Midnight Witch, Brackston decides to go for a "Downton Abbey" effect--capitalizing on the series popularity and trying too hard to play the manners game of the Victorian/Edwardian Era to recreate a London of appearances rather than dramatic substance.
Partly, the problem Brackston faces is presenting the motivation that keeps the reader turning the pages, rather than trying to figure out what exactly is going on based on the strict rules of her scenario. As the Lazarus Coven of witches--a high-bred society-influencing group has just "buried" their head, the former leader's daughter Lilith must take the reigns of control for which she has been bred. Of course, she is challenged--an enemy within the clandestine organization works against her. Nonetheless, she has what it takes even though she must keep in check her opium-smoking brother, battle demons and pass the tests of the other witches to prove her readiness.
Her romantic interest comes in the form of unassuming artist, Bram--who really doesn't know what he's in for as Lilith's specialty in the witch world is necromancy--she can talk to the dead--communing often with the shade of her deceased father.
All this sounds like the stuff of magic when it comes to plotline. The potential is there, but unfortunately it is all bogged down with glaring technical errors that actually make it a trial for the reader to get from one page to the next. Sadly, each chapter is not told from the perspective of one character--there can be many voices giving their third person impression of the timeline and the plot incidents. Not only is this disconcerting, but it punctuates the novel's failure to draw the reader in--opting instead for the stifling effect of standing apart--moving characters about on a veritable chessboard rather than allowing an instant affiliation and loyalty to grow between the reader and the main protagonist. The overall result is akin to a corset worn too tightly; as a reader, this reviewer did not have enough room to breath and comfortably acknowledge these fictional beings as likeable creatures. Even after reading over 100 pages, I still did not know what the main thrust of the novel was, and had absolutely no reason to find out. As a result, I did not feel compelled to finish this book and did not.
Brackston's former style of allowing the witch in question to act as the main focal point works much better; her other two novels, while not perfect are, indeed, far more readable.
Bottom line? Paula Brackston's "The Midnight Witch" gets lost in its own desire to recreate the turn of the twentieth century mindset as, perhaps, depicted by the mores and dialogue of Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, Brackston's stories of magic and self-discovery while battling nemesis forces and societal limitiationss have more success with a more intimate telling. Her frequent change of perspective within chapters adds to the sense of not knowing where the novel is going. Not recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren