Monday, October 11, 2021

#MacmillanAudio Review of The Orphan Witch by Paige Crutcher narrated by Saskia Maarleveld

I love debut authors it's almost like traveling to a foreign land for the first time, new sights, new sounds, new experiences and that is exactly what I got with this amazing debut by an author who I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot from in the future.
Enjoy!


ISBN: 9781250824400
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: 9-28-2021
Length: 11hours/20 minutes
Source: Publisher for review
Buy It: Audible

ADD TO: GOODREADS

Overview:


"Mystical, magical, and wildly original...If Alice Hoffman and Sara Addison Allen had a witchy love child, she would be Paige Crutcher. Do not miss this beautifully realized debut!"--- JT Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of Her Dark Lies on The Orphan Witch.

A deeper magic. A stronger curse. A family lost...and found.

Persephone May has been alone her entire life. Abandoned as an infant and dragged through the foster care system, she wants nothing more than to belong somewhere. To someone. However, Persephone is as strange as she is lonely. Unexplainable things happen when she’s around—changes in weather, inanimate objects taking flight—and those who seek to bring her into their family quickly cast her out. To cope, she never gets attached, never makes friends. And she certainly never dates. Working odd jobs and always keeping her suitcases half-packed, Persephone is used to moving around, leaving one town for another when curiosity over her eccentric behavior inevitably draws unwanted attention.

After an accidental and very public display of power, Persephone knows it’s time to move on once again. It’s lucky, then, when she receives an email from the one friend she’s managed to keep, inviting her to the elusive Wile Isle. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. However, upon arrival, Persephone quickly discovers that Wile is no ordinary island. In fact, it just might hold the very things she’s been searching for her entire life.

Answers. Family. Home.

And some things she did not want. Like 100-year-old curses and an even older family feud. With the clock running out, love might be the magic that saves them all.


Read an excerpt:

One

THE ISLE OF WILE


1919

AS AMARA MAYFAIR STOOD on the cliffs of Wile Isle, she wasn’t thinking about power, not at first, though power was certainly in play. She wasn’t thinking about magic either, though the sky was filled with it. As light danced around her, and electricity sparked in the palms of her hands, she was thinking about family. Lost family, like her ancestors sunken into the ocean, and those people we love but who end up lost to us even when they’re only a few miles away.

After all, Amara had written the poem about goblins in the market for her lost sister. Amara had penned and published it through the name of a girl she met reading in a field in London, England. It had been easy to bespell the Rossetti girl when Amara was off island on her travels abroad. Amara hoped the poem would grant the girl a better life and a clear path. She doubted it, though. Magic had a cost, and Amara had learned you could never escape paying its price.

Still, she hoped the poem would prove worth the effort. That one day, it would lead to redemption. It was a road map after all, and all it needed was the right person looking for a guide.

Amara turned her head to the east and studied the ancient ash tree that was spelled into a carnival tent. The tent was lit from the inside, the light expanding out and casting shadows against the earth. The shadows undulated, and from where Amara stood, they looked like beings rather than reflections.

Under her the ground shook as above the night sky shifted from a deep purple to a furious violet. Time was running forward, and the show was nothing if not theatrical.

One hundred years ago Amara’s ancestor had made a bargain for power. The islands, and Amara’s people, had paid dearly for it. Tonight, she feared another bargain—of a sort—could cost the rest of her family everything they had left.

The island’s heart pulsed in Amara’s veins, because the magic was there. It was always there, waiting. Made of neither power nor loss, magic was like the Goddess. Secretive, all-knowing, and unwilling to bow down to the whims of man.

Amara closed her eyes and looked inward, to the women who had come before her. To the ones who craved magic so deeply they could not see when it went dark. Amara whispered the words she had written, the ones that sprang up when she closed her eyes and saw the truth, when she looked to the vision of the corrupted magic reflected on her lost ancestors’ faces.

“One had a cat’s face,

one whisked a tail,

one tramped at a rat’s pace,

one crawled like a snail,

one like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,

one like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry,

she heard a voice like voice of doves, cooing all together:

they sounded kind and full of loves in the pleasant weather.”

This was never about women betraying women or women betraying men or men betraying women. It was about magic and power, and the two coming together to take down anyone who stood in their path. And this night, this night with its wind blowing in from the wrong direction and the green lightning emblazing the skies, well, Amara had little doubt it was only the beginning.

“Come buy, come buy,” she whispered.

Then Amara Mayfair turned and walked down the cliff and into the billowing flap of the carnival tent.

* * *

OFF ISLAND

2019

BEING LOST WAS a thing Persephone May knew quite a lot about, being that lost was where she’d always been. She supposed if she had been born musical she’d know rather a lot about guitars and pan flutes, drums and trombones. As it was, she couldn’t hold a note and had little patience for harmonies and sotto voce. But from the moment she’d been left on the doorstep of a firehouse at age six weeks, Persephone had been misplaced.

“She’s a bit like Paddington, if the bear had claws for teeth and knives for paws. It’s hard to embrace that,” Persephone had once heard a social worker say of her when she was nine, while trying to place her in yet another group home. “Too bad about that last family, though.”

The last family, the Millers, had almost been the ones: the people to claim Persephone, to finally give her a family and home. In their house, Persephone had a room of her own with an antique white desk and a twin bed with a lavender down comforter as soft as silk, pillows that cradled her head, and a lamp with a silver shade and the kind of light that made the room glow instead of burning her eyes. Persephone knew from the moment she sat on that bed it would be more than enough … if only it could last.

“You look so sad, honey,” kind Mary Miller would say to the little girl who sat on a dead tree stump in her backyard staring up at the sky. “Why don’t we try and find your smile?”

Mary Miller smiled with her whole face. When her lips curved, her eyes crinkled and friendly lines creased around her lips. Persephone had been desperate to pocket that smile the first time she saw it.

The smiles didn’t last, though. Mary would soon learn that Persephone, while lost, was powerful in ways no person should be.

Persephone had abilities she’d never understood. At the age of five, she had stirred the wind when she’d sent a diminutive tornado after a particularly nasty boy who tugged on her auburn pigtails and called her Pippi Longstocking. The tornado had carried the boy two fields over, and deposited him in Lockland Pond.

When she was seven, Persephone had made her foster sister disappear for six hours after the girl tried to flush Persephone’s beloved copy of Anne of Green Gables down the toilet, and then blamed Persephone for the clog. At eight and three-quarters, Persephone had accidentally poisoned her depressed teacher by stirring her tea for her and thinking “laughter.” The teacher spent three days giggling tears and had to be admitted into the local hospital’s psychiatric wing.

But it was at age nine, when Mary Miller stared too long into Persephone’s eyes and then hacked off her own hair with kitchen shears while shrieking, that Persephone finally, truly understood.

She was made wrong, she was evil, and she was cursed to be alone.

Things didn’t improve from there. Gone was the room at the Millers’ with linens that smelled like sunshine, and thick, homemade oatmeal with fresh fruit for breakfast. Replacing it were group homes with blankets that itched, processed food, floors that stuck under her shoes, and people who would never mistake Persephone as family. For the rest of her adolescence, anytime anyone made eye contact with Persephone for too long, a change would inevitably come over them. One minute, they were smiling, pleasant as a sunrise, the next … pure unfiltered rage.

She couldn’t understand why. Over the years Persephone would spend her limited free time tucked in various libraries reading. When she wasn’t escaping into worlds where mothers and daughters were best friends, families gathered around the kitchen table for dinner, and happily-ever-afters were guaranteed, she was studying. Persephone studied books on the occult, watched every online documentary, movie, and television series on magic she could get her hands on, and always came up empty.

Whatever power she had, it was wicked and it was mean.

Without meaning to, Persephone made one girl punch a wall, another boy kick a dog, and one supervisor at her group home slam her own face into a locker. After a girl threw Persephone off the second-floor balcony in a fit of rage (Persephone landed like a cat on her feet), she made the decision to keep her eyes to herself so no one else would get hurt.

Persephone kept her head down, and let go of her greatest dream of finding family and friends. The foster care system was an impossible one, but Persephone fought to make her lack of community—or distractions of any kind—work to her advantage. She finished her education online with a focus that bordered on obsessive, and defied the odds in a system that strove to forget people who should be unforgettable. Persephone secured admittance into an online university, where she went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in English while working a series of odd jobs in forgettable towns and earning just enough to make fraying ends meet. Her love of learning and libraries (and her fascination with her own unruly power) would eventually lead Persephone to write her own book, The Upside of Down Magicks, which explored the use of magic in literature, and was published by a small press.

But the book would be forgettable and a failure, much like Persephone’s ability to control her power. So even as she remained steadfast in her search for answers, Persephone May stayed lost.

And a lost thing is always waiting to be found.

* * *

ON AN ASHEN gray late September morning, the clouds hovered so low to the horizon that Persephone’s fingers twitched to reach out and catch them. While standing behind the counter at Gone Wired—the third coffee shop she’d worked in the third town that year—she felt someone watching her.

It was a tingle against her spine, the awareness of being studied. The first time Persephone felt that tingle she was four, and she was standing alone in a library in Asheville, North Carolina. One minute she was running down the aisle as fast as her feet could carry her, racing to find her foster sister and tag her in hopes the girl would finally be her friend. In the next moment, Persephone felt what at the time she could only describe as a giggle run down her spine. She stopped running, climbed up the two-foot stepping stool in front of a section of books on travel, and found herself face-to-face with a very stubborn-looking librarian. Persephone stared at his cheek and the thick stubble there, and watched his lips twitch into a smile.

“Hello there,” he said. “Lost, are you?”

“No. Why, are you?”

He laughed, and shook his head. “Best be on your way then.”

Something about his smile had made her hesitate, but then her foster sister’s laugh rang out and Persephone had jumped down from the stool and taken off in her direction, desperate to try and win the game and the other little girl’s affection.

Now the tingle was back, and thirty-two-year-old Persephone was wary. She turned her head, dipping her chin enough to see behind her as she worked to build the mocha latte for the waiting customer.

The man stood only inches from her station. A regular in the coffee shop, he was a professor at a nearby college who liked graphic novels and vintage novelty pins. The one he’d stuck to the pocket of his light flannel today advertised: I like Ike. His name was Thom and he’d been asking Persephone innocuous questions like, “Did you get certified to make those complicated frappuccinos?” and “Which do you prefer, movies or books or movies based on books?” for weeks now.

Thom wouldn’t be the first man to find Persephone interesting. There was something inside her, whatever it was that made her wrong, that drew people to her. She’d noticed it when she was thirteen, and her hormones were misfiring like faulty fireworks. For a girl who craved love like a drought craves rain, crushes had hit Persephone especially hard.

It started with Devon McEntire, the boy with caramel eyes and swooping black hair. The loner nephew of one of the guardians at the group home Persephone was residing in, Devon was beautiful in a clumsy way, and spent most of the afternoons on the creaking brown sofa drawing in a battered gray notebook. She watched him for weeks, lingering in doorways, taking twice as long sweeping the floor so she could study how his shoulders curved and his mouth compressed into a fine line while he worked. Eventually, Devon called Persephone out on it, asking her name and inviting her to join him on the sofa. She knew better than to look at him, so she brought her library books for the online home school program she was enrolled in and they sat side by side, not talking, but being there. Together.

In the evening, when the light faded, Persephone felt safer. Devon would look at her, his gaze drawing a blush hot across her chest, and she learned to crave the times when she could study the mole over his right eyebrow.

At dusk, the room grew warmer, the dragon of desire Persephone discovered living in her belly unfurling its wings and flapping each time Devon smiled her way. It wasn’t love, but it was something—sitting with Devon, not talking but smiling … a lot. When the snowstorm came that January, and Devon had to stay the night, Persephone took it as a sign.

That night, he snuck into her closet-sized room. As the snow escaped the sky, he trailed kisses along her cheeks, and awkwardly bumped her nose with his chin before his mouth captured hers. Devon tasted of spearmint gum and smelled like Irish soap. In the morning, he snuck back into her room, crawling into her bed and kissing Persephone awake. It was like a dream. A normal, beautiful dream. That’s why Persephone didn’t think. That’s why she looked into his eyes.

Persephone was lonely, living in the group home. Most kids in the system cycle in and out of any given home within eight months to a year. A few of them would arrive with an edge so sharp if you brushed past them too quickly, you’d bleed. It made it hard to make friends, even without Persephone’s … problem.

Sometimes the kids came in with trauma too thick to unpack. The year before Devon came, a girl went into the bathroom with a razor blade and didn’t come back out. So no one said much, after the snowstorm. After Devon looked into Persephone’s eyes for too long, he jerked away from her, crossed to the window, yanked it up, and jumped out.

Devon, Persephone heard months later, made a full recovery. His aunt transferred homes and life, or something like it, went on. Though it was hard for Persephone to believe in romance after that.

From then on, when the dragon of desire would foolishly wake, Persephone would distract it with library books about fictional boyfriends. It was too painful, otherwise. Persephone ended up losing her virginity to a summer library intern with piercing blue eyes and a Scottish accent in a darkened microfilm room that smelled of Febreze. She learned that with the lights out, anyone could be a fictional boyfriend, and as long as she didn’t let her heart become involved, her basest needs could be met.

Her life had been a journey of seeking satisfaction in the basics, knowing anything beyond it was impossible. Wishing for more touches, more connection, more … everything.


Copyright © 2021 by Paige Crutcher

My Macmillan Audio Review:

The Orphan Witch
Paige Crutcher

 

Crutcher’s debut is a true magical delight, a mix of magical realism, fantasy and paranormal romance that will appeal to a multitude of fans. Her world building is an ingenious mashing of real and imagined places like the appearing/disappearing Library for the lost, and people - some quirky, some scary and some nice and everyone unforgettable.  Persephone being so starved for affection will make the audience want to envelope her in an at least 30second hug because she counts every second of every physical encounter she’s ever had seeing they’re so few and far between. And because of her humility they’ll also cheer her on as she selflessly unweaves the spell that curses the island and its inhabitants. This totally unputdownable novel will appeal to both male and female readers, fans of Sarah Addison Allen, Deborah Harkness and Paula Brackston, and incredibly strong female characters.

Narration:
Saskia Maarleveld is the perfect choice for the narration of this novel, she’s got an accent straight from the realm of fairies, a voice that bespeaks mystical mysteries, does a bang-up job of both male and female voices, and is the absolute ideal Persephone.

Abandoned on the steps of a Firehouse at six weeks old Persephone May has only ever wanted to belong. She wanted to belong to every family who almost adopted her, she wanted to belong to every group home she was shipped to throughout her youth in the foster care system. But every time she was this close to belonging something bad would happen, something she knew she’d caused and she’d be alone again. What she didn’t know was that she wasn’t causing bad things to happen, she was a witch who simply didn’t know how to control her power. Then at age thirty-two after another seemingly unimaginable catastrophe Persephone decides to accept an invitation given to her by Hyacinth, a woman she could actually look in the eye, who she met a year ago who seemed more familiar than anyone else she’d ever met. So on the Autumnal Equinox, a day which she shouldn’t have been able to, she stepped foot on Wile Isle for what she hoped would be a new start. What she found was a strange powerful place that was under a 100-year-old curse two sets of sisters at the center of it all and a beguiling man and his library for the lost that seemed in between worlds.

 

About the author:
Paige Crutcher is the author of THE ORPHAN WITCH. Her work appears in multiple anthologies and online publications, and she is a former Southern Correspondent for Publishers Weekly. She is an artist and yogi, and when not writing, she prefers to spend her time trekking through the forest with her children, hunting for portals to new worlds.

16 comments:

  1. I will pass on this one. Happy Monday.

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  2. I like the way you describe first encounters with authors and series. Oh yes, this does sound like it would be a hit with me.

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  3. Sounds like an interesting story.

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  4. This sounds like something that I would really like. I think that audio would be the way to go.

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    1. Oh it was a very good audio but I expected nothing less when I heard who the narrator was

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  5. Wonderful review, I need to add this to my listening list!

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  6. Oh sounds really really good - going to take myself over to Audible.

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  7. I am looking forward to reading this one. Glad you enjoyed it.

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