49th Shelf, as a recommendation for September reading:
Steve Stanton picks The Tattooed Witch, by Susan MacGregor
debut fantasy novel by accomplished Canadian editor Susan MacGregor is
set during the historical period of the Spanish Inquisition when women
lived without basic civil rights and were treated as chattel. The author
has a gift for engaging empathy from the reader with a simple narrative
The story begins dramatically with a young seer falsely
accused of murder and destined for torture and death at the hands of
corrupt papist minions, then begins to conjure a thematic ballet of
primitive European spirituality and unrequited love. It's a dance of
life revolving around a gypsy tribe known as the Diaphani, who have
magical powers of divination in their bloodline, worship the goddess
Lys, and believe in an afterlife of ghosts and demons. Hounded by the
orthodox Church, the Diaphani make an annual pilgrimage by caravan to a
secret sanctuary in the hills for ceremonies of prophetic appointment
and cultural restoration.
The Tattooed Witch explores and
satisfies the innate human longing for arcane knowledge and forbidden
revelation with strong elements of romance, revenge, and
Steve Stanton is the author of a Canadian sci-fi trilogy, The Bloodlight Chronicles, and
is the former president of Canada's national association of science
fiction and fantasy authors. You can find him on Twitter @SFStanton.
"I’ll begin this review with a caution. Susan MacGregor’s The Tattooed
Seer is a sequel to last year’s The Tattooed Witch. I read the
latter about a year ago, and even with that relatively short period of
time, I found myself struggling at times to remember the back story. So,
if you have not read The Tattooed Witch, read it first. It’s a
wonderful book and will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the The
So on with the review of this book. Susan MacGregor
sets her books in 16th century Spain, where a magical band of gypsies
are fleeing persecution from Tomas, the Grand Inquisitor for the Spanish
Inquisition. The book is fantasy but that hasn’t stopped the writer
from doing meticulous historical research, so much so that most readers
of historical fiction or romance will find much to like here.
story centers around Miriam, the band’s matriarch and her struggles to
lead her people to safety. Her life is complicated not just by the
inherent dangers of their situation, but also by two lovers, one of whom
is corporeal and the other spiritual. This may well be the oddest love
triangle I’ve ever encountered but it works beautifully.
powers come from self-inflicted magical tattoos but she is not alone.
Each member of her band has their own special ability but they must work
together or perish at the hands of Tomas. Getting them to do so is
part of the challenge facing Miriam.
If you are a fan of historical
fantasy or romance this book will sit in your sweet spot. But here’s
the thing. I’m not and yet this book still works for me, largely
because Susan MacGregor is a literary craftsman. In my world, fine
writing trumps genres any time, and this is fine writing."
G.J.C. McKitrick writes poetry, songs, short
stories, novels, stage plays, and reviews under the name G.J.C. McKitrick and science
fiction under the name T.K. Boomer. His mainstream novel “A Walk in the Thai Sun” is available on Amazon. He is close to completing his science fiction novel, “The Fahr”. He maintains a website at: http://bit.ly/1oKwjhf
(My thanks to both Steve and Greg for these great reviews. As I mentioned earlier, they were unexpected, which makes them all the sweeter. Since both reviews have been made by men, I'm happy to see that the trilogy is breaking barriers - not simply dismissed as 'women's fiction'.)