Boneset and Feathers by Gwendolyn Kiste
You don't know their fire is coming until it's too late. That's exactly the way the witchfinders like it. As an isolated enchantress, Odette knows this too well--she lost nearly her whole family to the last round of executions, barely escaping with her own life. All the magic she could conjure wasn't enough to protect her mother and sister, a burden that leaves a despondent Odette practically wishing she'd burned with the rest.
Now it's five years later, and as the last witch left from her village, Odette has exiled herself to the nearby woods where she's sworn off all magic, hoping instead for quiet and for safety. But no witch has ever been permitted a peaceful life.
It starts with crows tumbling out of the clouds and spectral voices on the wind that won't leave her alone. Then there are those midnight visits to the graveyard that she can't quite remember in the morning and the strange children following her everywhere she goes. Odette wants to forget magic, but her magic doesn't want to forget her. Meanwhile, the former friends she left behind in the village are cowering together, hiding from the ghostly birds they believe she's sent to torment them for abandoning her. But that's only the beginning of their problems, as Odette soon discovers their worst nightmare is about to come true--the witchfinders are returning. And this time, the decree is clear: to burn the witch that got away.
With the men drawing nearer to the village, Odette must face the whispers from the dead and confront her fear of her own growing power if she wants any chance of stopping the army of witchfinders determined to rid the countryside of magic once and for all.
This is the second novel from Gwendolyn Kiste and I'm beyond excited to have been given the opportunity to read it before it's officially released on 3rd November 2020. Such an honour!
For most of you, Gwendolyn Kiste doesn't need an introduction. She is a Bram Stoker Award winning author of dark fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Nightmare, Black Static, Shimmer, Lamplight, and Three Lobed Magazine plus many others. Her first novella Pretty Marys All in a Row received critical acclaim upon release in 2017. As did her first novel, The Rust Maidens from Trepidatio Publishing in 2018.
And now we have Boneset and Feathers to devour which will be released in November 2020 from Broken Eye Books. A gorgeous book featuring magic, witches, ghosts and revenge turned sour.
I don't want to give out spoilers but it's spectacular! Gwendolyn Kiste takes the magical and makes it real, makes beautiful the macabre. I really loved this book, I've read it twice already!
I think one of the many reasons why Gwendolyn's stories resonate so deeply with her readers are that her characters are almost always outsiders, forgotten and bereft. Everyone's felt like that at some point in their lives.Rejected from the world, forced through their circumstances to forge a survival locked in a world of loneliness and despair.
In her tales these outsiders learn to adapt embarking on a monumental transformation, sometimes they rise up to claim back their lives becoming stronger than their foe or falling into deeper depths of despair that have no escape.
What I also love about her writing is that it always so emotionally raw. As a reader you feel so connected to her characters like they have been your friend and confidante since childhood. In Boneset and Feathers I immediately felt a connection to our heroine Odette.
Boneset and Feathers is the tale of a young woman who against all odds and logic outwitted the witchfinders when they came to her village and set it ablaze. She pays a heavy price for her survival, everyone she once loved are dead and sometimes she wishes she could join them in the grave.
Five years on and she's living alone in the woods, she should be surrounded by love and laughter, friends and family. Instead she's an outcast from the only village she's stepped foot in, and now she's forced to live in a haunted woods where travellers and locals fear to tread. Why? Because she is a witch living in a world that barely tolerates women.
Trouble starts once again when birds, which have been absent for the last five years, begin drop dead out of the sky. Along with everything else she fears she will be blamed for this. Such an unnatural event is going to bring attention once more from the city ruled by men to this small village.
Odette just wants a quiet life living in her cottage handed down by generations of witches. Unlike so many of her kind she just wants to die alone in peace, without flames and torment, but trouble seeks her out. Magic is calling out to her, begging for Odette to take charge and finish the spell that was started five years ago.
Unlike the other witches reduced to ash, their names forgotten, Odette has garnered fame and loathing. Even those who were once her friends think her a monster. She is the only witch that would not burn.
I ended up racing through this book as once the pace picks up it keeps going in an exhilarating journey with lots of twists and turns.
Odette may have been left physically weak, starved of food and warmth but inside she possesses a spirit stronger than she realises until she is pushed to her breaking point.
If you love witchy stories you'll also love Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter and the marvellous anthology Hex Life edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering