Witchfall follows young Meg Lytton to the court of Queen Mary in the service of the Lady Elizabeth. It is a dangerous time for the members of the small household of the possible future Queen Elizabeth, living through stifling suspicions of heresy, disloyalty, domestic rivalry and sexual jealousy; a persistent setting of interacting tensions. Affairs of state pertaining to the succession sit over this backdrop, and the Inquisition is at its pernicious work. Meg, a country witch and associate of the magician John Dee, in love with a Spanish priest, is in particular peril.
Witchfall is the second book in Victoria Lamb’s Tudor Witch series, and she has chosen to keep the recapping of the back story to a minimum, which advances the plot into the sequel at a tremendous pace. However, readers of the first book, Witchstruck, will be aware that the smouldering novice Catholic priest, Alejandro, belongs to the Order of Santiago, a military order who were permitted to marry, but this is not explained until well into Witchfall.
There is a delicious darkness to these books. Historical distance permits a realistic depiction of torture that would be impossible to tackle in YA in a modern setting, and Meg is no teen ‘bubblegum witch’. The author has deftly established credible divisions between the ‘high magic’ of Dee and the ‘low magic’ of the witch. Although it is unlikely that Dee was channelling angels through a young associate at this time, it is a fiction writer’s prerogative to suppose that he might have. This leads to the introduction of Dee’s fictional apprentice, Richard, and, as a romance is at the heart of the book, he makes a flawed foil to the perfect Alejandro. Eager readers from eleven to twenty-one will enjoy this book.