Timy reviews The Witchwood Knot, the first book in the Victorian Faerie Tales series by Olivia Atwater.
An eARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This title will be published on November 28, 2023.
|Series:||Victorian Faerie Tales #1|
|Genre:||Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction|
|Date of Publishing:||November 28, 2023|
|Trigger Warnings:||mention of child abuse, death, blood,|
Possible The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge prompts:
- Free Your Mind
- Are You Gonna Be My Girl
- I’m Still Here
- Teenage Dirtbag
- Shut Up and Dance
- I’ll Be There
The faeries of Witchwood Manor have stolen its young lord. His governess intends to steal him back.
Victorian governess Winifred Hall knows a con when she sees one. When her bratty young charge transforms overnight into a perfectly behaved block of wood, she soon realises that the real boy has been abducted by the Fair Folk. Unfortunately, the lord of Witchwood Manor is the only man in England who doesn’t believe in faeries—which leaves Winnie in the unenviable position of rescuing the young lord-to-be all by herself.
Witchwood Manor is bigger than its inhabitants realise, however, and full of otherworldly dangers. As Winnie delves deeper into the other side of the house, she enlists the aid of its dark and dubious faerie butler, Mr Quincy, who hides several awful secrets behind his charming smile. Winnie hopes to make her way to the centre of the Witchwood Knot through wit and cleverness… but when all of her usual tricks fail, who will she dare to trust?
“Innocence is so offensive, isn’t it?” he asked her finally. “It is never content in its existence. It must force itself upon the rest of the world, insisting that true horror is a fiction.”
The Witchwood Knot is not my first Olivia Atwater book, and certainly not the last. I did not expect to squeeze it into my schedule so soon, but the cover reveal excitement got the better of me, so I had to rearrange things a bit. I have no regrets, though.
The Witchwood Knot is set in the same world as Atwater’s Regency Faerie Tales series, there are even references to the characters in Half a Soul (if you know, you know). There are no spoilers though, so even if you haven’t read those books, you will be able to fully enjoy them at a later time. If you already read Half a Soul, however, then you’ll be happy to find some additional bits that will enhance your reading experience.
Our heroine this time is Winnie, who just arrived at Witchwood Manor to be the governess of a young boy, the grandson of Lady Longfellow, who is aware of Winnie’s abilities. That’s why she asks her not to tutor Robert, but to protect him while he is staying. But of course, Winnie has her own reasons for taking the offer – she is looking for answers as to what happened to faeries, and specifically to the Hollow Lady. And she doesn’t arrive without weapons, so to speak. She has a bottle of magical perfume, a silver knife she got from the Hollow Lady, and of course Ollie, the undead cat (you are going to love him). She also has knowledge about the faeries which definitely comes in handy, when dealing with the Witchwood Knot. But what the hell is the Witchwood Knot, you might ask. The question is excellent, but I’m afraid you’ll have to find the answer for yourself. Let’s just say it’s the stuff of nightmares – quite literally. I enjoyed exploring it, but I also wanted more of it.
This book has a fairly small cast of characters, and because it’s also a short book, there isn’t much time to get to really know them. I think that was my biggest issue with The Witchwood Knot – I wasn’t able to build an emotional connection with the characters, especially Winnie. It’s not to say I didn’t like her, or Mr Quincy for that matter. And that’s a bit frustrating, because we got to know Winnie the most, including childhood traumas that still haunt her. Atwater handles the topic of child abuse and trauma with deft hands. We get as much information as we need to ensure we can understand what Winnie is going through, and why she makes the choices and has the personality she has. And this aspect of the book works really well. Atwater builds up her character beautifully, and in a way, many people will be able to identify with her. And yet… for me, there was something missing, but I couldn’t tell you what, exactly. Maybe it’s her hard facade, the way she keeps her distance from everyone. At the same time, it was interesting to follow her coming out of her shell a bit and letting herself open up.
I don’t often say this, but I think The Witchwood Knot could have done with some more pages, to fatten it up a bit. I loved the included fairy tales, maybe there could have been more. But I also wanted to understand more about The Witchwood Manor’s past and its connection with Faries, or maybe to get to know a bit more about the characters like Cook, or Lord Longfellow who ended up being a bit one-dimensional. A monster, for sure (one that totally creeped me out, so he certainly fulfilled his purpose), but still one-dimensional, or even Robert and his past and present experiences to give us a glimpse into the changes he is going through (because he does), or Winnie’s sisters and how the Lord Sorcier’s new laws affected their lives in general. And probably a bit more suspense, too would have done it good. Also a second POV character. I just can’t help thinking that while I enjoyed my time with this book (which reads super fast), there could have been so much more to it.
While there is some romance, I wouldn’t say it’s the main focus of the plot. But it’s definitely an integral part of it. It plays into both parties’ character arcs. It’s a slow build one, and it takes a good portion of the book to get going. It’s written very well too, so even if you are not a fan of romance in your fiction, you should still be able to enjoy this one.
The Witchwood Knot is a delightfully dark and gothic faerie tale about trauma, love, revenge, and greed. A visceral and atmospheric read that’s best enjoyed curled up with a cup of tea on chilly autumn days. A definite must read for fans of Olivia Atwater. And if you dare to fall asleep, you might hear Mr Quincy’s haunting music. But beware, danger is always just a step away, and you definitely don’t want to step on Lady Mourningwood’s toes…
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