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by Alex Gordon
Harper Voyager, $14.99 TPB, 415pp
Published: January 2015

This is a pretty standard ghost story with witches as the protagonists.  There’s a small town somewhere in Illinois that guards a ‘gate’ to another dimension.  This part was rather unclear.  The whole town is witches and has been for an undetermined amount of time.  Their job is to guard against the “wilderness.”

Back in 1836 something bad happened.  Two men came to town and were welcomed into the fold.  One of them betrayed the town but which one became the question.   The town was manipulated and lied to, and when the townsfolk attempted to punish the guilty one, it didn’t go quite as planned.  When it was all over, many of the menfolk were dead and one woman stood between the evil and the remaining townsfolk.  Unfortunately, her actions were misinterpreted and misrepresented making her a pariah.  Thirty-five years later, she tried once again to stop the evil forever.  Again, it didn’t go well.

The story moves into present-day with a young woman, Lauren, whose father just died.  In going through his papers, she finds evidence that her father was born with a different name in a town named Gideon.  Lauren finds herself stalked and when a young witch tries to help her, the witch ends up dead.  With no understanding of witchcraft, and little belief in it, or of what is at stake, Lauren heads for Gideon.  She is determined to discover who her father was and why so many strange things are happening to her.

The town does not welcome her; in fact, she is treated like a pariah because of who her father was.  Trying to gain anyone’s trust enough to learn some facts is harrowing; some of the women actually try to kill her.  But she’s the only one who knows the truth:  the evil that the town tried to bury in 1836 is still there and actively trying to break the curse that binds it to the town.  If it succeeds, the entire town will probably die and the rest of the world shortly after that.

As ghost stories go, this wasn’t bad.  It was a bit formulaic.  The pacing was good.  The plot was relatively simple but the characterizations were really well-done.  With the exception of our heroine and one supporting character witch, I didn’t find any other characters sympathetic.  Most of them were dreary and depressing.  It was, of course, intended that way as the town hadn’t had much sunshine or happiness since 1836.  If you enjoy ghost stories or old-fashioned witches, you will probably enjoy this one.  ~~ Catherine Book

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