From 17th-century France to World War II London, Morgan's debut novel leads readers through five generations of witches.
The Orchiére women have the gift of magic, seen first with Ursule, the elderly matriarch of a Romani family hunted through France by a witch-hating priest. In her last act, Ursule foresees a home for her children along the Cornwall coast and sacrifices herself to ensure safe passage. Nanette, a child when her grandmother dies, inherits Ursule's scrying stone and her powers...but also the hateful priest and new threats in the form of wary Cornish locals. Nanette's brief affair with a traveling tinker produces a daughter—and a reason to stand her ground and destroy the priest with magic, buying the family a little time. But ultimately, her daughter (another Ursule) will need to face the same forces of prejudice and fear...as will her daughter, Irène...and her daughter....This is a cyclic tale, but as time passes and focus shifts from mother to daughter, the plot becomes captive to that cycle. There will predictably be a handsome man to capture the attention of each Orchiére woman and a daughter to inherit magic, face bigots, learn that it has a cost, and provide a next chapter; repeat until done. The high-water marks (such as a poignant confrontation between grandmother Ursule, daughter Irène, and granddaughter Morwen) get lost to the next generational leap. Even in the last segment, with Nazis to defeat and the London Blitz to weather, what should be the tensions of war yield to an unsatisfying love triangle and the same old Orchiére concerns.
History buffs will enjoy the solid research and romance fans will find tragic fodder aplenty, but the story repeatedly abandons each heroine just as things get interesting, instead retreading old ground with new faces.