Witch 13 – Patrick Delaney

Sheriff Sterling March is not doing so great. Her life is a mess, and she’s to blame. Wanting nothing more than to spend a night with friends (once the paperwork is done), instead she gets a witch.

Straight from a fairy tale, this witch. Tall, pointy hat, black flowing clothes, this person just screams “I need you to know that I am a witch!”

Fortunately for March, witches aren’t real.

Unfortunately for March…yes they are. And this one is about to make her, and her little town, into believers.

“13 Witches” 

They walked together,

old as time,

they’ll take your soul, 

but don’t take mine.

Skin like milk,

hair like ash,

they’ll kill anyone,

who crosses their path.

Hats full of stitches,

make your wishes,

because coming for you,

are the thirteen witches.

— Unknown

I was pleasantly surprised by the illustrations – I wasn’t expecting them, but the first appeared in the prologue. They are, all of them, beautiful (even the disturbing ones); images of charcoal and grey, clouded and swirling, with the main image picked out of the smoky background. Kudos to the artist, they are magnificent.

To our protagonist, then. Marsh is an odd character, and it takes a while to warm to her. Right from the start there are very clearly a number of things wrong: sleep trouble, family estrangement, an unhealthy tendency to push herself, the need to run and run and run some more.

There’s also an early comment about her old life, and an ex-girlfriend (woo). But it seems like her running habit isn’t just on a treadmill.

A few lines later…and yeah, the running thing is just what she does.

This is a woman who is full of cracks, and one more might be all it takes for the whole person to shatter into pieces.

So we’re off to a wonderful start. I can’t wait to see what a (presumably) evil witch is going to do to this crumbling wreck of a woman!

Anyway, it doesn’t take long to get stuck in to the scary stuff, always good to start how you mean to go on, and it’s a pretty decent start, for sure.

(Hey also, she’s bi, double woo!)

And we have more than just a mixed-race main character, there’s a whole bunch of not white people, just existing in the world and doing their thing. I always love to see that!

The cast of characters (whose pov we occasionally see through, usually when things are happening in parallel that Marsh doesn’t know about), are quite the bunch. Not all of them are particularly likeable (I’m thinking of one in particular that never grew on me). They’re an oddball group if ever there was one, but they’re great to be around. Even as things fall apart, they try to figure out the best thing they can do, and put in every effort to do it.

Max’s age caused me some issues. He’s meant to be 7 years old. He can solve a rubik’s cube, but doesn’t know what a ruler is. He acts at various times like he’s anything between 5 and 12 years old. Sure, kids have weird depths of maturity that adults don’t see a lot of the time, and they don’t grow into it all at once, but it’s more like his mental and emotional age just being whipped up and down to suit what’s happening, rather than him genuinely reacting. I might be being overly picky on this point though!

There seems to be a large plothole in the overarching “we’re trapped in this town” thing. There’s talk of the bridge being blocked–that’s fine. But nothing about another main way in or out, nor are the fire trails mentioned, that I recall, until the emergency services come racing up them at the end.

The evil witch? She’s very creepy. Store mannequin creepy. She can apparently teleport at will, make people see things, and a bunch more useful stuff, and that’s before she gets her full power. At that point, there is much gruesome carnage! Almost too much, in a way, it gets a bit silly as the author tries to come up with new things for the witch to do, but it is entertaining.

So keep away if you’re not great at dealing with gruesome things.

But, if you like plots that don’t give away all the answers, video game style execution with magic, and getting into the head of a really fucked up but always trying protagonist, pick it up and read!
Witch 13 was released on June 7th 2022. Get it from Amazon UK or US, or your favourite bookseller or library.

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