A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox- Feature and Review

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821 

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…


The Witch of Willow HallThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox is a 2018 Graydon House Publication.

A fine supernatural Gothic tale!!

This is a book after my own heart!! I love a good old school Gothic story. However, the modern versions of Gothic can often leave me feeling frustrated, as they rely too heavily on magic and the supernatural to carry the story and less on the slow, careful, buildup of suspense. The creepy, spooky elements should reveal themselves at well-timed, calculated moments for an optimum effect. In this case, the author captures the essence of true Gothic horror and even adds a romantic element into the mix, putting the cherry on the cake.

The year is 1821- two centuries after the Salem witch trials-
The Montrose family has fled Boston in the wake of a scandal. Settling into New Oldbury, the three sisters, Catherine, Lydia, and Emmeline try hard to adjust to their new normal.

Catherine is a schemer, a manipulator, using her beauty and charms to attract men, hoping to find a husband. Lydia’s engagement to Cyrus was broken after the rumors began to fly, but she soon meets John, and the two find themselves drawn to one another. Emmeline, is the youngest, the most carefree, boasting more of a mother/ daughter relationship with Lydia, who is very protective of her sister.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear to Lydia that Willow Hall has many secrets and long dormant imprints, which her arrival has suddenly awakened. The house will force Lydia to face a long- buried aspect of her own life, the truth she and her family have denied for many years- Lydia has certain abilities- a power within herself, one she loses control of from time to time. The more she understands, the more power she will have, but will it cost her the one thing she most longs for- true love and happiness?

A good  Gothic novel should move at a much slower pace, allowing the suspense to build through the characterizations. If paranormal elements are truly a part of the story, which they are in this case, then those elements are normally spread out, muted at first, creating that rich, taut, and oh so delicious feeling of heavy foreboding. The suspense takes its sweet time reaching a crescendo, but it is always well worth the wait.

I haven’t read a good Gothic Horror novel that combines the magical elements of both witches and ghosts in a long time.

If I had to complain, I would say the author was just a little too cautious with this one at times, but overall, I must hand it to Ms. Fox. She has written a pure, traditional Gothic novel, with grace and aplomb, while also appealing to a broader audience.

Before I go, I must, of course, address the romantic elements in the story. Love and romance are often at the center of Gothic novels, and again, the author did a great job of weaving those elements into the story without it becoming the dominate theme. Not only that, the love story was beneficial in lifting the heavy gloom, to reveal the promise of hope and long overdue peace.





Hester comes to writing from a background in museum work and historical archaeology. She loves the Gothic, the lurid, the dark...so long as the ending is a happy one. She has never seen a ghost, though she remains hopeful.

Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband. THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL is her first novel.

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