Downton Abbey meets the dark arts in Brackston’s (The Winter Witch, 2013, etc.) latest, which sees an aristocratic young English witch leading a fight against an evil magic order while world war looms.
Twenty-one-year-old Lady Lilith Montgomery has her hands full. Her father, the sixth Duke of Radnor, has just died, handing on his title to Lilith’s opium-addicted brother, Freddie, and his other title, Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven, to Lilith herself. While shielding her fragile brother and grieving mother, and placating her fiance, Viscount Louis Harcourt, also a witch, she must now prepare for her inauguration as Morningstar, leader of the coven sworn to protect the Great Secret and the Elixir from the clutches of malign necromancers like the Sentinels, who could use these materials for terrible ends. And then Lilith goes and falls in love with a nonwitch, handsome artist Bram Cardale, leaving both herself and Bram vulnerable when wicked forces attack. This third combination of romance and sorcery from Brackston is longer, slower and more slackly plotted than her previous books, neither chilling in its horrors nor compelling in its drama. Skipping forward from 1913 to a conclusion six years later, it runs a repetitive and illogical course, no more infernal in its necromancy, finally, than Ghostbusters.
Previously a sprightly tale-spinner, Brackston has mislaid her magic touch this time round.