Jen and Timy reviews Dyer Street Punk Witches, the latest standalone Urban Fantasy novel from the Ordshaw series by Phil Williams. We also have an extra treat for those who stick around until the end of the reviews!
Huge thank you goes out to Phil Williams for giving us both an ecopy in exchange for an honest review! It’s always a pleasure to return to Ordshaw.
|Series: Ordshaw #7 standalone||Genre: Urban Fantasy Thriller|
|Date of Publishing: September 12, 2022||Trigger Warnings: gang violence, drugs/drinking witchcraft|
|Page count: 254||Publisher: self-published|
Kit hung up her brass knuckles, but the shadows of her past lingered. Now they’re back to claim her.
Kit “Fadulous” Hamley, magazine editor, activist and former punk rocker, is a well-known loudmouth in St Alphege’s. She works tirelessly to hold local authorities to account. Some say she’s making up for her criminal youth. Others spread rumours of witchcraft. Only a handful of people know how dark her secrets really are.
When an old friend warns Kit that a former rival has resurfaced, those secrets start to resurface. People have gone missing, with body parts and strange symbols left behind, and someone is stalking Kit. The gang she abandoned are scared stiff and her magic-wielding bandmates are long gone. Kit herself is a target, and if she can’t unravel exactly how this new feud connects with her past mistakes, it could kill her.
Decades older, a little wiser, and contrary as ever, Kit’s going to remind them all what a punk witch can do.
Get ready for a riotous ride into the seedy underbelly of St Alphege’s, where gang warfare and occult conspiracies tear ordinary lives apart. Dyer Street Punk Witches is a standalone urban fantasy thriller, packed with tough, subversive characters and tense twists – you won’t be able to put it down.
“We can’t bring him back,” Kit said, taking all her nerve to keep her voice steady. “We don’t know how to heal things. Only how to break them.” Bill’s nostrils expanded with rage, chest swelling like he might explode. Finally, he spoke calmly, assured. “Then you’ll do damage. You’ll make them pay for this. If it’s the last thing you do.”
I knew a couple of chapters in which song I was picking. The author’s notes only cemented the rightness of my choice.
Of course, it had to be Pat Benatar‘s Bad Reputation.
Dyer Street Punk Witches is Phil Williams’ newest standalone entry into the many branches of his Ordshaw universe.
Once upon a time Kit, was a rebellious girl who wanted it all. She wanted to put her band on the map, wanted recognition, wanted to be the difference.
Now, older, wiser, and tempered with regrets, Kit, is still fighting for that change. These days, she does what she can as an Influencer; channeling her desire to be heard, and fighting The Man through her magazine, Incite.
Williams brings magic to the modern world – In this case, gang wars backed by witches, in the toughest part of Ordshaw. And it’s fast and fun, with just a hint of creepiness, and is everything I have come to love about his stories.
The Dyer Street Punk Witches‘ cast of characters and the locales are on the smaller side and I really like the more intimate feel to this story. As fun as Kept From Cages was – with its globetrotting locations – I prefer this sort of setting for giving us time to really get to know the characters. (The City Screams also had a smaller focus and was another favourite of mine)
Williams has a gift for bringing alive characters that are just a teeny bit broken, and on top of that, he’s darned good at writing strong ladies. I find his characters are easy to connect to because, on some level, I can recognize an aspect of myself in them.
Kit is closer to my age. Though I was quite a few years too young for the punk-rock age, there is still a bit of nostalgia that carries through the story for me, having grown up near that time (and music). And also because of Kit, and her friends – who were going to conquer their world, and it fell apart – leaving us with this wistful feeling of life has moved on – along with those big dreams and opportunities.
Aaron is magic sensitive. He lives his life trying to pretend he isn’t a basket-case of anxiety, every day of it. After Kit saves him, he becomes somewhat obsessed with getting to know her and applies to her magazine, Incite. He kind of hero-worships Kit, he is drawn to her because she is everything, he wishes he could be.
There are other great characters in Mads, Clover, Ellie, and Drew, among a few that I will let you discover on your own.
I love the friendships – past and present. The sacrifices and secrets, and the way the story unfolds with the contradictions that make you wonder who is being honest with whom.
The story plays back and forth on the timeline with the past being filled in mostly in the epigraphs – where we see the rebellious young Kit and the choices that changed everything and everyone around her.
I have become a huge fan of the little window stories in epigraphs these days, and William uses them expertly, to fill in the background with tidbits. Combining them with the info in the body of the story, they help build the past events to their downfall, while setting the mood and tone – letting the here and now pace and stay moving along. It works so well for me – as someone who likes a less-is-more approach to worldbuilding and imparting past events – especially ones that so easily can become info-dumps.
I know I haven’t talked much about the plot or the big bad and there is a reason for that – everything is tied-up in the characters! This is not just a mystery and resurfacing gang wars. It’s friendships, love and loss, and growing pains. Longing for better, while sabotaging your own chances of having it, because of either being too scared or deep down believing it isn’t deserved.
In short, Dyer Street Punk Witches is about confronting a past that will never let go, until you turn and face it – forgive and move on. It’s the kind of storytelling that I eat up with a spoon because it’s like a fun beach read with a few lessons we can take home for ourselves. What a great story!
Dyer Street Punk Witches is my new favourite entry into the Ordshaw Universe – the characters made this one a huge win for me.
TIMY’S REVIEW – 4.5/5*
“The first thing to know about witchcraft, one thing I know for sure, is that the spells and charms are built on old anger and outrage, the products of oppressed or marginalised people. It’s not about loaves and fishes; it’s desperate vengeance.”
Okay, so, this is not exactly a punk song, nor is it from the 90s’ and it’s not even on Phil Williams‘ playlist (check it out below), but I really wanted to pick a Halestorm song for this book. Lzzy is how I pictured Kit, just with green punk hair. I went with Strange Girl from their latest album, which has a heavier sound and would work well with Kit’s character.
I can’t believe Dyer Street Punk Witches is only my second Phil Williams book. I’ve been meaning to read his books for years now and I only just started on them this year. I should be ashamed. That said, the moment I first saw the cover of Dyer Street Punk Witches, I knew I had to read this one. Not only the title spoke to me, but the cover art too. Yes, I’m that predictable, sue me. Williams kindly offered me an ARC, even though I wasn’t able to deliver a review in time. I’m sorry, but here I am now!
Dyer Street Punk Witches is mostly Kit’s story. Being nearly 40 years old, she left behind her life as a punk and gang witch, but that doesn’t mean she stopped being a rebel. Her magazine, The Incite, does its best to go against injustice and corruption and to bring changes to the poorer parts of Ordshaw – namely St. Alphage’s, Kit’s home. But leaving behind one’s past doesn’t mean that past is content to stay put. Magic is seeping back to Ordshaw and the changes it brings comes knocking on Kit’s door. With friends old and new, she once again has to put herself on the frontline. Hoping it won’t be another bloody business. Hey, a girl can dream.
Although it took a while to get to know Kit, I had an instant liking for her. She is that type of no-nonsense person who gives exactly zero fuck about what’s conventional or what society might think about her. Be it her sense of style (I like to think she’d approve of mine), her opinions, or her manners – she remains true to herself, even if she decided to give parts of herself up at one point or another in her life. Truth be told, I’m kinda jealous of her for that. Although not of the trouble that keeps finding her at every corner…
“Because a lot of people are gonna try and put us down. That’s eighty per cent of a punk’s work. We fight against the norms. Show them weird’s cool.”
Besides Kit, this book has a pretty wide cast of characters that play smaller or bigger roles. Big Mad, Ellie, Aaron, and Drew are the most prominent ones. I liked Big Mad, Kit’s best friend, who balances out Kit’s erratic and unpredictable nature, and their banters were a joy to read. I had mixed feelings about Aaron, especially in the beginning. Maybe because he reminded me too much of myself, being paralyzed by anxiety, not belonging anywhere, being unable to put his life together, and just staying put because it’s so much easier. However, it was nice seeing him getting out of his shell slowly, and opening up to Ellie. He certainly grew on me by the end.
The well-developed characters, the tight plot, and the overall reading experience make it clear that Williams is a seasoned writer. There never was a dull moment, nor did the story drag. At times maybe felt rushed a bit and I certainly would have liked a bit more depth to certain parts (like Kit and One-Eyed Goddom) but these are minor things. What I absolutely loved was how Williams did a lot of world-building through the chapter openings. Usually showing us the past, giving us a good idea about Kit’s life and relationships and why things were as they were in the present. It definitely worked out really well and spared the reader of all the infodumps. That alone earned an extra star from me.
This book also made me think of We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix, although there are probably a lot more differences than not. Maybe it’s because of just the general vibe and the fact both have a female ex-musician as the MC. Although Dyer Street Punk Witches is more of a love letter to the 90s’ punk scene than We Sold Our Souls is.
“They entered the main club floor, which looked the same as it had twenty years ago, with tall stages, neon-lined bars and scummy purple upholstery. Kit could still picture the stages paced with teenagers in short skirts and collared shirts, but the club was sad and empty now, dirty floors laid bare and bars unmanned. Like seeing a clown nursing a hangover while his makeup ran.”
Dyer Street Punk Witches is one of the very good examples of why I love the Urban Fantasy subgenre – without using the usual tropes. It also shows how a good UF/thriller should work. It’s gritty, it’s rough around the edges, it has a touch of supernatural and well-written character dynamics that makes this book unputdownable. This was definitely not the last Phil Williams book I’ve read and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!
As an extra treat, Phil Williams kindly shared one of his cool character cards he produced for the release of Dyer Street Punk Witches with us so we can show it to you! Look at it and tell us you don’t want to know more about him and the book!
Fantastic review! That’s such a great song choice and perfectly captures Kit’s attitude and energy. I also really enjoyed how the past was revisited and the the blanks filled in through epigraphs—not too short or long and just the right amount of detail in it! I really loved the relationships that develop in this story as well and it was great to see how these characters come to care for each other.