This is book was published in 1988 and in some ways its age shows. Would it still hold and enthral me as her wonderful children’s book The Little Broomstick has done?
The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin’s unusual eyes. When the child becomes a young woman, she moves to Thornyhold where she is thought by the local community to be a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves. And not everyone who initially greets her is as friendly as they seem…
I’ve tweaked the blurting blurb somewhat, as it seems a shame in a relatively short book to have too many plotpoints spoiled in advance. This book starts slowly and steadily gains momentum so that by the time Gilly is confronted by the threat facing her, I was thoroughly rooting for her.
That said, I’m a tad conflicted about this one. I had a sense that this book started out to be a paranormal examination of how people with odd gifts can blend, or otherwise, amongst the rest of us. I enjoyed the slow building tension, where a number of small details were not quite… right and I was engrossed in wondering where this story was going next. When abruptly the mood and feel of the novel turned into something quite different as a romantic hero was introduced.
From then on, the story became more predictable and conventional as it lapsed into the normal trope of a love story. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with said story – I liked the heartthrob well enough and he is clearly a catch. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that Stewart had initially submitted something quite different, imbued with the sense of otherness that permeates the beginning of the book – and had probably been told that it was too odd for the book-buying public.
I may well be entirely wrong about this – but this is definitely a book of two halves and for me, the gripping, eerie feel of the first half wasn’t satisfactorily filled by the second half of the book. Under normal circumstances, that would be a dealbreaker. But this is Mary Stewart, whose writing I love, so this rather uneven book is readable and still enjoyable despite the rather tame ending.