Grief, magic and the ancient world collide in Brackston’s (The Midnight Witch, 2014, etc.) fourth novel.
Still grieving the unexpected death of her husband, artist Tilda Fordwells moves into the remote cottage on a Welsh lake they had intended to share. But as Tilda becomes the center of a series of paranormal events, she soon realizes her pull to the area is anything but accidental. Equally unsettling are the curious new effect Tilda seems to have on electricity and the terrifying visions she's been having since settling into the cottage. Even as Tilda seeks to understand the bizarre new powers she possesses, she's blindsided by her attraction to Dylan, an archaeological diver hired to explore the ancient crannog that once dominated the lake. Alternating smoothly with the modern storyline is the tale of Seren Arianaidd, a 10th-century shaman charged with protecting Prince Brynach, the handsome royal who rules from the crannog on the lake. As the two stories unfold, the reader learns what ancient act of love and revenge ties the two women together—and what deadly, dark power has awoken from the dark waters of the lake. The story has moments of glory, but Brackston’s writing, so solid in earlier books, vacillates unpredictably between evocative and uninventive. Her use of description also founders: A full page is dedicated to detailing the interior contents of a hut, and three various men are described as “wiry” in the first hundred pages. And while the reader may thrill to the idea of both a contemporary and a historical romantic storyline, the romance between Prince Brynach and seer Seren feels disappointingly devoid of foundation, chemistry and heart. It may be only the die-hard fans of Brackston’s particular blend of history and fantasy that are able to overlook such missed opportunities.
A stunning setting and bewitching premise make this book appealing, but Brackston’s execution falls short of its mark.