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The Witch Queen, book #3 of the Fern Capel trilogy by Jan Siegel

Review by Mike 2004-02-26

In The Witch Queen Jan Siegel (pseudonym for Amanda Hemingway) brings forth her fantasy heroine Fern Capel, a modern day witch, for the third and final time. A couple of years has passed since the events of The Dragon Charmer, and the world is about to enter a new millennium. Fern is having nightmares signifying that the Old Spirit Azmordis is not yet done with her, and from the werefolk she learns of the arrival of a witch with powers not seen in a long time. Could it be her old enemy Morgus that has returned to the realm of the living?

The first book starring Fern, Prospero’s Children, reminded me somewhat of classic British fantasy tales like The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper where kids of our time suddenly find portals to magical realms or learn that magic exists in our world. It had an atmosphere of innocence and “all will be well in the end”. Now that Fern is a thirty year old woman and working in the PR business in the big city Siegel has adjusted her writing accordingly. The atmosphere in The Witch Queen is much darker and there is a cynical touch to the prose that wasn’t apparent in Prospero’s Children.

However, some of the supporting characters bring back a bit of the sense of “easy adventure” from the old days. Will, Fern’s brother, is still sometimes playing the part as easygoing side-kick, and Ragginbone does his best to act as Fern’s mentor and friend in Gandalf-style. But the person who most easily lightens the mood is Bradachin, a house-goblin with a weakness for whiskey and an almost incomprehensible Scottish accent.

There is one problem with the writing though. Almost the whole book is written in a third person narrative, but Siegel has chosen to let one of the characters present herself in first person. I can see why she chose this technique – it must have been very difficult to reveal this person’s character and motivations in third person – but the sudden changes from third to first person disrupts the flow of the story, and the prose becomes stilted and awkward in these parts, making them a chore to read, especially since a lot of the information they yield is redundant. It would have been better for the overall picture if Siegel had approached this character’s motivations through other person’s points of view and deductions.

Despite this minor complaint I thoroughly enjoyed The Witch Queen, and thought it was a worthy conclusion to the adventures of Fern Capel. I give it 4 amulets and warm recommendations.

Fern Capel Trilogy
Prospero's Children
The Dragon Charmer
The Witch Queen
(Witch's Honour in the UK)

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