THE MALAN WITCH
By Catherine Cavendish
Published by Silver Shamrock Publishing
I’ve been seeing the Cavendish name here and there for the last two years now (thanks to my interest in Flame Tree Press), but this is my first time reading anything more from her than a short story. The Malan Witch is a novella about a haunted cottage where two witch sisters once lived long ago. The place has since been renovated by Robyn’s sister, Holly, who has mistakenly released one of the captive witch spirits by burning a doll she found in the home. Apparently, there were two, one for each sister. Now, one is free and looking to release her sibling. Nobody knows this, of course, until Robyn decides to vacation at the house the summer following the loss of her husband. But shortly after her arrival in the quiet town, she starts getting spooked by a crow that seems to keep watch over the cottage.
This is an easily digestible story with minimal substance. It gets into the thick of things almost immediately, pushing you through very little backstory or character development. What we know of everybody comes right off the bat. Even Robyn’s loss of her husband is only lightly touched, though it seems like there could have been some beneficial progression there to leave us with more of an emotional impact. Yes, the husband comes into play a couple times, but it’s always brief. Everyone else is pretty one-dimensional, though the white witch in town is more mysterious (thanks to people either loving or hating her); as such, you aren’t sure if she can be quite trusted.
I had some issues with this novella, but nothing that ruined the experience. I would have liked more character development, for one. I also had an issue with how easily characters accepted the witch haunting – it didn’t feel very natural. When Robyn calls her sister to tell her every crazy thing going down at the cottage, Holly accepts it within a minute. The haunting, itself, is also pretty mild. I didn’t find events all that alarming (if at all), but Robyn takes to them with gusto immediately. The writing, though good, had a YA feel to it; I was expecting something a little more mature and complex than what I read.
Though I didn’t feel any danger from this story – it wasn’t scary at all – I found the ride enjoyable enough (albeit slim). The last chapter definitely picked things up for me, even if I didn’t get the great deceit I was expecting and hoping for. Though The Malan Witch did nothing to blow me away, I still found potential in Cavendish’s work, so I will check out more from her down the road.
Review by Aiden Merchant