Review – The Water Witch by Juliet Dark


Publisher: Ballantine (re-release)
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: uncorrected eBook from Edelweiss

After casting out a dark spirit, Callie McFay, a professor of gothic literature, has at last restored a semblance of calm to her rambling Victorian house. But in the nearby thicket of the Honeysuckle Forest, and in the currents of the rushing Undine River, more trouble is stirring. . .

The enchanted town of Fairwick’s dazzling mix of mythical creatures has come under siege from the Grove: a sinister group of witches determined to banish the fey back to their ancestral land. With factions turning on one another, all are cruelly forced to take sides. Callie’s grandmother, a prominent Grove member, demands her granddaughter’s compliance, but half-witch/half-fey Callie can hardly betray her friends and colleagues at the college.

To stave off disaster, Callie enlists Duncan Laird, an alluring seductive academic who cultivates her vast magical potential, but to what end? Deeply conflicted, Callie struggles to save her beloved Fairwick, dangerously pushing her extraordinary powers to the limit—risking all, even the needs of her own passionate heart.

*blurb from Goodreads here

The Water Witch is the second book in the Fairwick Chronicles series. Callie is half-witch/half-fae who works as a professor of folklore in Fairwick, NY. The town of Fairwick is home to humans, fae, witches and assorted otherworldly beings. It is the last place with a known door to the land of Faerie still open. Callie also happens to be a powerful (if unknowledgeable) doorkeeper – someone who can open the door between the human and fae worlds. The Water Witch picks up shortly after The Demon Lover where Callie had banished her incubus lover, Liam, to the Borderlands basically sentencing him to an eternity of suffering.

Now, she has to face a new set of challenges all while going through a sort of grieving process for Liam. A faction of witches known as The Grove wants to close the door to Faerie forever because they feel too many fae are preying on humans. This would force all the otherworldly beings to choose: return to Faerie and lose their touchstone to humanity or stay in the human realm and eventually fade. Meanwhile, while performing her duties as doorkeeper, she unknowingly lets a Big Bad undine into the human world to wreak havoc. As a result of that blunder, now she also has to find a way to save the life of an ancient Norse divinity who had been working as her handyman. Further, it seems her power has been warded shut making her unable to access her full potential. She needs help. Enter tutor Duncan Laird who teaches her how to use Aelvesgold and metaphorical magic to help break through her internal wards. Meanwhile, her old Victorian is falling apart now that her handyman is indisposed so she must hire a new one. Enter quiet and unassuming Bill Carey who helps put her house back to rights. Callie has a lot on her plate: send the Big Bad undine back to Faerie, save her friends, unlock her power and thwart The Grove’s plans to permanently seal the door. But all is not as it appears and she will have to figure out a way to see the truth before it’s too late.

This is one of those hard books to review. At the time I read it, I was looking for something light that wouldn’t tug on my emotions too much. And I got that. Unfortunately, when it came time to write up this review, I found I didn’t have much to say about it. What I did have to say about it sounded ranty, however the truth is that while I was reading it, the experience wasn’t all that bad. Had I been looking for a book with depth, that wouldn’t be this but I wasn’t at the time…so take that as you will.

It’s also a difficult book (for me) to categorize. I wouldn’t call this a PNR because there really is no relationship development here – and yet there are sex scenes. However, for me, without a touchstone to the characters, I really don’t enjoy reading the sexy times. I suspect I am supposed to feel something for the relationship between Callie and Liam, but I just can’t bring myself to connect with a relationship that is based on deceit and doesn’t seem to have a future. In this story, most of the intimate moments happen in a dream-like state where you are left wondering if the scene was really a dream or happening in some in between plane. So, not only did it not feel quite real to Callie, it didn’t feel real to me. I wouldn’t call this an UF either, although that is what it more closely resembles. The problem with calling it an UF is we don’t get a kickass heroine. Instead, Callie is a bit of a bumbling character who doesn’t have to work that hard to solve the problems presented to her and never really has to deal with the consequences to any of her actions.

The writing style was engaging and overall flowed well. The descriptive language was well thought out and executed. I felt the story kept a good pace by staying with the action. I did enjoy aspects to the worldbuilding. I liked the concepts of natural magic, otherworldly magic and metaphorical (animal) magic. I especially liked how metaphorical magic could be utilized – it seemed so freeing. Although, I must say, that Harry Potter has forever ruined the use of spell words such as “Retrievo” and “Flagrante Ligfyr” in any other setting. Every time I came across it in this text, I found it more than a little bit distracting.

I had some eye-twitching moments when coming across (what I think of as) the author’s bias showing through the text. We get a not-so-subtle message that wizards (men) are more powerful than witches (women) and that although men can be called witches, they prefer to be called wizards. Yuck. Then, as part of Callie’s inner dialogue at one point, she slut-shames herself. Really? There was nothing wrong with the fact that Callie slept with one man and then found herself attracted to another. She was a consenting adult and she was single. She didn’t harm herself or another person. I don’t see what the big deal was and I really could have done without the moralizing. What I didn’t like was the absence of character development and by association there was no relationship development either. But that has nothing to do with how many men she slept with/had fantasies about. Had this story been about Callie’s sexuality and her journey of self-discovery, well then, that would be different as one wouldn’t expect relationship development per se in all cases.

There were so many convenient coincidences and easy solutions to what should have been challenging problems in this story that detracted from my overall experience of it. Callie never really had to fight for things the hard way and she was presented with easy ways to circumvent her biggest obstacles. So, like I wrote earlier, my review of the book sounds sort of ranty and I’m not sure why because even for all that I still kinda liked the story. I think that’s because the author’s writing ability was good making for a readable story even if the story elements themselves left a bit to be desired.

In the end, I give The Water Witch a C+

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