Witch’s Honour by Jan  Siegel
HarperCollins Voyager; (UK: July 1st 2002)
Review by John Berlyne

Hardcover - ISBN: 0002258390 List Price: £21.95
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Trade Paperback - ISBN 0002258404 List Price: £10.99.
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Witch’s Honour sees the conclusion of Jan Siegel’s memorable tale of modern day witchcraft. Following on from the events of the haunting Prospero’s Children and which continued via The Dragon Charmer, our protagonist Fern is now a grown woman and a witch of no little substance and reputation. That said, she now lives a fairly normal working in London’s West End for a PR company. Her brother Will and friend Gaynor, (who, whilst not having The Gift themselves, were both involved in the events of the previous books) also now have everyday jobs and it is this fusion of apparent normality and fantasy that makes Siegel’s work so interesting.

She writes about recognizable people and places, her style elegant and the writing often quite beautiful, but over this Siegel lays a veil of mythology that reaches far back into the ancient mystical lore of both Albion and Atlantis. As the title of the first book suggests, we are very much in the territory of Shakespeare’s Tempest, of Caliban and his mother Sycorax. There are references too to the Arthurian legends and to Greek mythology and the passions of these stories feed those of Siegel’s own.

An old evil, one Morgus, a witch of enormous power, has returned to the world in a rejuvenated and seemingly invincible form. She sets herself up in a country manor house, having ensorcelled its wealthy tycoon owner (helping herself to his money in the process) and stolen the soul of his daughter who now lies, like Fern herself did at one time during The Dragon Charmer, comatose in a private hospital. Lucas, the girl’s brother, desperate for help, contacts Fern and thus brings to her attention to dangers posed by Morgus. She already knows something is up, troubled as she is by a recurring nightmare. Fern remembers Morgus only too well - a crone from the underworld whom she had to trick in order to escape back to reality - and now Morgus is back to get revenge for Fern’s betrayal. Indeed betrayal is a central theme to Witch’s Honour, one which Siegel deftly uses to surprise the reader throughout.

There’s a lot going on in Witch’s Honour and we really feel for the Fern and her friends. In some ways I felt more comfortable following the story of the younger Fern. Her innocence and the sense of discovery we shared with her in Prospero’s Children did make that book stand out for me. With age and experience though comes responsibility and this weighs heavily on Fern’s shoulders in Witch’s Honour. The result is a much darker book, but certainly a no less impressive one. I look forward to seeing what Siegel comes up with next.

© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu