The Malan Witch by Catherine Cavendish

“Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs.”

An idyllic coastal cottage near a sleepy village. What could be more perfect? For Robyn Crowe, borrowing her sister’s recently renovated holiday home for the summer seems just what she needs to deal with the grief of losing her beloved husband.

But behind those pretty walls lie many secrets, and legends of a malevolent sisterhood—two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped there. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way.

And the crow has returned.

The IndieMuse Review

Set in a quaint, UK seaside town, The Malan Witch invoked a lot of memories of childhood holidays for me. Sandy beaches and blue seas, beachside cabins and seafront towns. These were fond and cherished memories until I read this book and Catherine Cavendish succeeded in making them retrospectively creepy and disturbing!

Following the tragic loss of her husband, Robyn is looking forward to a long stay at a quiet spot in a quiet coastal village where she can escape while she comes to terms with her loss. Robyn’s peace is soon shattered when she begins seeing dark silhouettes and hears strange noises at night. She soon learns of the infamous history of the town, and the two evil sisters burned at the stake many years before, whose restless spirits rumored to be trapped in the house where Robyn is staying.

The sisters’ evil has unwittingly been released. Can Robyn stand against their dark power, or is already too late to prevent an infernal reunion, centuries in the making?

The Malan Witch is a beautifully written and incredibly well-researched book. The history of Witchcraft is something I’ve long had an interest in, and the level of historically accurate detail Cavendish has put into this story is both impressive and effective. I would seriously recommend looking up some of the folk-magic related items referenced in the Malan Witch (poppets and bodkins, children’s shoes and hag stones) while reading it. It’s incredibly creepy stuff, with a real-life history and used to great effect in this book.

The witches themselves are an incredibly sinister antagonist for Robyn. They are a subtle but troubling presence at first, always in the periphery and suggested elusively, but not overtly threatening. As the story progresses, and things build, the threat becomes more real and increasingly insurmountable and I was surprised by how far Cavendish took things in this regard. Rest assured, this is a scary book, particularly in the first half when the tension is being built. Once things really get going in the latter half, there is a sense that anything could happen and the whole thing becomes gloriously unpredictable and wildly inventive.

The books setting of an isolated seaside town plays a major role in The Malan Witch. At first, we see it through Robyn’s eyes as a picturesque and charming place, filled with natural beauty and largely unspoiled. As the story progresses, and things take a dark turn, the isolation becomes more problematic than desirable, and the charm begins to manifest sinister undertones. The shift is subtle and gradual and never overtly referenced, but there nonetheless.

Atmospheric and creepy, building to an epic and thrilling finale, The Malan Witch uses the real-life history of UK folklore to weave a scary and unpredictable story that deserves a place on any horror fan’s shelf.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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