Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Witches of LychfordWitches of Lychford

by Paul Cornell
Series: Witches of Lychford, #1

Kindle Edition, 144 pg.
Tor.com, 2015
Read: September 8, 2015

You ever get nervous about starting a new work by an author? Sure, in retrospect, it may seem silly to doubt, but for every Jesse Stone, there’s a Sunny Randall. As much as I like his Shadow Police series, I wasn’t sure I was up for something else by Paul Cornell. Thankfully, my apprehension was silly, because whether he’s writing about London or a small town, Cornell knows what he’s doing.

The town of Lychford is on the verge of dealing with a major assault by evil forces and for reasons you should discover for yourself, that is not something that can be allowed, because if they are allowed to invade, these supernatural forces will carry the day. So they must be stopped before they can begin in earnest.

These forces are, naturally, a large supermarket chain. What else? They’re called Sovo, and I’m sure they resemble no actual chain (or that Cornell has really good lawyers). But it seems that there’s more to them than low prices and a knack for ruining the lives of small business owners.

Now, your middle class activist types might get riled up by this, but there’s only so much that their petitions and flyers can do against the supernatural (not that they realize they’re going up against powers beyond their ken). Even when the supernatural are primarily using things like empty promises, bribes, and the allure of new jobs, there’s only so much that well-off Muggles can do (to borrow a term from some other series).

It’s going to take people able to see the otherworldly aspects of the PR Campaign that Sovo is waging to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry to thwart them. Now, typically, this is where we’d get someone like Rachel Morgan, Harry Dresden, or Peter Grant to come in and kick a little supernatural butt. Instead, we get such obvious heroes as a crackpot old lady and vicar who’s on the verge of losing her faith. Thankfully, the crackpot is actually a witch of sorts, so they’ve got a fighting chance.

For something a mere 144 pages long, this is an incredibly rich and well-developed world. The magic system seems pretty thought-out and realistic (for lack of a better word). The characters (those mentioned and a couple of others) are sharply defined and could probably carry a story by themselves.

Really, really impressive work — I’d love it if the work were longer, but honestly, I’m not sure if it’d have been as effective if it had another 1-200 more pages to develop everything. I think this ensures Cornell’s place on my “grab anything you see by” list without really caring what the subject matter is.

I was about to hit “Publish” on this when I had this thought — this reads just like one of Bledsoe’s Tufa novels would if set in England. For my money, that’s a pretty high mark.


3.5 Stars

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