The Snow Witch is both a haunted and haunting book. Though not a ghost story as such, it is swarming with ghosts – the ghosts of the past, the ghosts of winter, breath ghosts. From the bleak frosty shore to the black, black sea, Wingett tells the tale of a lonely, insular refugee from the east of Europe who finds herself in the cold season days of a British seaside town. There she encounters strange kindness but also becomes the victim of a harrowing experience.
The tale is infused with humanity at its rawest, its nastiness but also its generosity. Like a favourite author of mine – Ray Bradbury, Wingett skilfully paints a scene in words with painterly strokes; in my mind when reading I could see the twinkling of the model village lights in the darkness of the drawn in evenings and feel the bite of frost upon my fingers. I found myself immersed with the events playing out in my mind like images upon a cinema screen; for me that is the mark of a skilled writer. Also adept and engaging are the characterisations of the figures prevelant in the narrative – from the enigmatic otherworldliness of Donzita, the enduring grief of Celia, the shy awkwardness of Eddy, the wilful desperation of Vee and the low, selfish cruelty of Riley.
At times The Snow Witch is raw, unafraid to confront the unkindness of life but it also shines the beacon of hope and illuminates magic and maintains its air of cold, ethereal beauty throughout.
The Snow Witch is available to pre-order from here and here
Review by Andy Paciorek
A few over-grassed earthworks are all that remain of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle in the picturesque market town of Ellesmere (North Shropshire), stood on the banks of The Mere, the largest of a number of small lakes in the area. It is said that the lake was originally dry pasture, with a good well on it; but when, in a time of drought, the farmer (a wicked old woman – presumably a witch) who owned the field charged the townspeople a ha’penny for every bucket of water they drew, God punished her by causing the well to overflow, drowning the pasture and forming The Mere. Whatever the truth of its origin, The Mere is reputedly home to some very fay creatures.
Once, on a clear night of the full Moon, a fisherman caught an Asrai in his net. An Asrai is a water spirit, taking the form of a beautiful, green-haired, lithe-limbed woman the height of a child. He was entranced, staring at the Asrai where she lay in the bottom of his boat, entwined in the net, bathing her pale body in the moonlight (Asrai are said to feed on the Moon’s rays). Come sunrise, she became distressed and struggled to return to the water. The fisherman, determined to keep her, covered her with pond weed to protect her from the sunlight and rowed hard for the shore; but, once ashore, all that remained beneath the weed was his empty net and a pool of water.
Another denizen of The Mere is Wicked Jenny, a type of water-hag relatively common in England – others of her kin are Jinny Greenteeth, in Lancashire, and Peg Powler, in the River Tees (effectively portrayed as “Meg Mucklebones” in Ridley Scott’s 1985 film, ‘Legend’). Wicked Jenny lurks at the edges of the lake, waiting to sieze the unwary and drag them to the muddy bottom, where she devours them. Her favoured prey are children.
By rj krijnen-kemp