Now She is Witch: ‘Myth-making at its best‘ Val McDermid
About this deal
In the harsh world of Now She Is Witch, which would seem to be some version of medieval Europe, most girls and women are possessions for men either to harm or play with. Plus, the element of mystery was intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages until I reached the end.
Although Logan’s style may not be for everyone, there’s no denying her incredible skill as an author. I think the big topics were given due respect and breathing room for the most part, although of course that feels like a very personal rubric.Some of the writing is beautiful, some is what I guess is 'stream of consciousness'; interesting, but too long and it gets a bit tiresome. It’s little wonder that for a time Lux, who as the novel progresses becomes in turn an actor on a frozen stage, a servant in a hall of delicacies, a food-taster to a lord and companion to a fine lady, is tempted to turn her back on Else’s revenge and set her own dreams of finding freedom in the wild country aside. I couldn’t help but feel the heavy burden on my chest when I realised; nothing much had changed since then. Again, this is hard to explain, and all I can really do is tell you to read it to find out, but there’s something magical about it, combined with the occasionally experimental nature of it (there are entire sections which are someone telling their part of the story, for example), which adds to the folktale feeling.
Now She is Witch has me sleeping easy again in the knowledge that I can keep my self-appointed position as chair of the unofficial Kirsty Logan fanclub. As they move quickly and quietly in a never-ending bone-achingly dark and cold forest Lux is convinced that her saviour whose face is hiding from the world is a North witch with tremendous power. Among many things, probably one of my favourite aspects of the story was the main character; Lux’s evolution throughout the story.A slow burning, sinister tale of witchcraft and wise women, with complex, powerful, female characters. Now She Is Witch feels like the making of a new one, while also fitting into the landscape of British Isles folklore more generally. But when I say every cell in my body was shivering, shrieking and went into a max frenzy just like Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic when I heard the owl, That Owl, under my window I’m not even exaggerating. Anyway, Logan dips her toes into that myth, her main character being a herbalist and abortionist, but manages to craft a story that does justice to the horrors of witch hunts and the disempowered position women held in medieval societies that never feels exaggerated. Whether Logan is describing a dismembered bear whose lopped-off parts are handed out as favours at a banquet, or a gory flagellant’s parade, the images we are offered snap and sizzle with portent and possibility.
So, yes, it’s a story of power and its warping, but also of love and courage and wisdom and beauty and a magic that runs deep in the earth. Lux's description of her time with 'Him' at the sanctuary, and when the narrative shift's to Else for one part, her description of the 'large man on the large horse' was harrowing. The realness of all these elements, in conjunction with the magical atmosphere of the setting and prose, made Lux’s story hit home all the harder. On a technical level, she keeps getting stronger and stronger with every release, and Now She is Witch is near perfection.The book also has enough action to keep you on your toes, while the other chapters; where the author takes the reader to reminisce about her characters’ past are long enough to slow your speeding heart rate a little. Any who assume agency are swiftly denounced and brutally dealt with: those labelled witches are tied to poles in the sea and left to slowly drown; others guilty of lesser offences (talking too much, too loudly or indeed at all) are paraded around in scold’s bridles, torture devices deployed to humiliate.
Normally, this might be a little frustrating, but Kirsty Logan manages it so deftly that what it does is hook you further and further into the story.
It’s a kind of revenge plot, but being female in a male dominated time highlights the power and powerlessness of women at this time.