First of a new fantasy series from the author of the paperback Simply Human). In about the ninth century, the villagers of Citharista in the south of France stone Elen to death as a witch. Neither her former lover, the priest P’er Otho, nor her weak husband Gilles, can prevent the deed. Two spirits, the elf-like Guichen and the huge, bearlike Yan Oors, rescue Elen’s young daughters Marie and Pierrette. Yan takes Elen’s remains and plants them, so she becomes a tree and, later, can talk with Pierrette. Henceforth, Pierrette must be a boy, else heirless Gilles will be forced to sell his olive grove to the local lord, Jerome the Burgundian knight. Bright, inquisitive Pierrette takes refuge with local sorcerer Anselm, who teaches her magic. Marie wants a husband and family, but Jerome insists on sleeping with her first; he’s possessed by a demon, however, and Marie is so traumatized that she becomes catatonic. Pierrette conveys Marie to sanctuary in a nunnery. Along the way, she finds that some spells, effectual at home, no longer work, concluding that a paradigm shift has taken place since the spells’ inception. How, then, to regain the their efficacy? Other problems that will occupy the developing sorceress: the dwindling belief in such spirits as Guichen and Yan Oors, and the growing power of Satan, the Eater of Gods; Anselm’s failing spells and diminishing physicality; and the demon that possesses Jerome.
Rambling, scholarly, fascinating, refreshingly different: as accurate a representation of real magic as it is possible to envision.