Friday, November 02, 2012

Review: Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne

I’ve always been drawn to witches. As a child, I never liked Dorothy because I thought she was rude to the Wicked Witch of the West who, in my opinion, seemed kind of awesome. I would get so angry when Dorothy threw the water on her, couldn’t stand to watch it.

So suffice it to say, I love stories about “good” witches: powerful, beautiful, magical witches with strong ties to the elements of nature, witches like the ones featured in Maggie Shayne’s Mark of the Witch.

After giving up on ever finding her soul mate, Indira stopped believing in magic and turned away from her faith in witchcraft. But she seeks out the assistance of her friend and high priestess, Lady Rayne, when she wakes with rope burns on her wrist after an especially vivid dream. What follows puts her in multiple situations that force her to question her beliefs, or rather lack of beliefs.

Father Tomas, also is at a point in his life in which he’s questioning his choices regarding his faith. And on a side note, I was quite amused by the reaction I had from people when they asked about the book I was reading, and I responded, “Oh, just a story about a witch and a priest falling in love.”
But this book is much more than a simple love story between a witch and priest. On a deeper level, this book is very much about faith and religion and the differences between the two, as well as the role people allow those to play in their lives. How does a person cope when dogma interferes with a deeper faith, and when love challenges everything in which a person once believed? Maggie Shayne clearly knows her facts about the craft, and this novel is heavy with details and rituals associated with this practice. That is part of what I felt makes this book such an enjoyable read. The story feels authentic, not merely a jumble of made up random traits assigned for entertainment purposes to people who practice magic.

I have mixed feelings about reincarnation stories, sometimes I think they’re just silly, but I liked the way the topic was handled in this story. This takes the idea of soul mates to a whole other level. These are two people who should want nothing to do with each other, should have nothing in common, but their attempts to fight against their feelings for each other are challenged by a powerful love that has existed for more than three thousand years.

While everything that happens ultimately leads to the love story, the characters have to endure quite a bit before they finally acknowledge their destiny. It’s going to take some convincing for Father Tomas to give up his collar for a witch, no matter how beautiful she is or how strong his feelings for her. Before they can be together, they’ve got to solve the mystery of Indira’s dreams, and figure out the truth behind a story about a demon that is going to emerge through a portal on Samhain Eve. They also need to deal with a fanatical priest, decipher some secret scrolls, and retrieve a missing amulet. This is not a light, quick, read. This is an action-packed story, with twists and surprises up until the last few pages.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am very much looking forward to reading the next book in The Portal trilogy.

Also – I very much recommend reading the prequel to this book, Legacy of the Witch. It provides quite a bit of background for this novel, and I think it’s available for free on most sites.

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