Monday, September 14, 2015

Juliet Blackwell's Witchcraft Mysteries

Reviewed by Jeanne

Juliet Blackwell has been writing her Witchcraft mysteries since 2009 but since I always seem to be a day late and a dollar short, I’m only now starting the series. Lily Ivory is a natural witch, born with a talent for brewing and botanical magic.  As a child, Lily had been more or less abandoned by her parents and was raised by an adopted grandmother who began training the girl to use her powers.  She left her grandmother ostensibly to continue her training but searched for her father instead.  That did not turn out particularly well, but Lily is frugal with details. Now she’s in San Francisco, running a vintage clothing store and trying to blend in with normal humans. She tries to keep her abilities a secret in an effort to avoid being ostracized as she was before, but the local supernatural grapevine soon picks up on her presence and she receives a visit from Aidan Rhodes, a local and very powerful witch.  Aidan brings her a gift, of sorts:  a familiar, who looks very much like a goblin.  Fortunately, he can alter his shape into something a bit less unsettling—a pot-bellied pig. He can still be annoying, however.

Secondhand Spirits, the first book in the series, has Lily settling in and beginning to meet people. Because her powers set her apart, she’s had little experience with certain social interactions; for example, she’s never before had any close friends.  She gets a lead on an elderly lady with some vintage garments for sale, but while she’s checking out the clothing a child goes missing.  It turns out that the area has a history of missing children.  Concerned, Lily tries to set up some supernatural protection for the woman, but her attempt fails:  the woman is found dead.  Now Lily is determined to get to the bottom of both the murder and the missing children.

I’ve read two books in this series so far and have found Lily to be an appealing hero as she learns about her craft.  The author throws in a few spells just for good measure, mostly general information on creating charms or protective spells.  There’s a romance with a human skeptical of the paranormal, some friends, a couple of enigmatic souls, and, of course, Oscar the goblin/pig for a touch of comic relief.  I also liked the tidbits about vintage fashion and the care of antique clothing the author throws in.  The Haight- Ashbury setting is used to good advantage, featuring both fog and traces of counter-culture vibes.  

While the series isn’t quite what I’d call a cozy, it isn’t a gore-fest, either. The investigations have their share of blood and creepy details but the author doesn’t dwell on them. There is a dark undertone but it's not a "sleep with the lights on after reading" type, at least not for me. Each book picks up just about where the last one left off without much of a time lapse, but I don't think this is a series that you have to read in order unless, like me, you simply prefer to do it that way.

And no, there isn’t a cat.  Lily is allergic.


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