The Bad Witch Reviews:
The Magick of Master Lilly
by Tobsha Learner
This book feels timely. Set before and during the English civil war from the point of view of an astrologer and magician it might seem odd for me to say that but it is. There are, of course, more than two factions but you have really two opposing forces. One cultured, connected to Europe, artist, intellectually explorative and another towards nationalism, religious hatred, anti-intellectualism and paranoia.
No this book feels very relevant today. It also happens to be a cracking read. The story is well paced, the characters alive and vibrant. The “sides” are full of well-meaning people communicating badly and not getting what they want. The villains are ordinary people given the liberty to act in monstrous ways by the conflict around them.
The occult elements are interesting and a good blend of fanciful and real. The terminology doesn’t distract or bog down those whom might have no knowledge of Craft, astrology or Cunning Folk ways. Yet it doesn’t become historical techno-babble.
The victims to the folly of war are many, and always the innocent are punished first. The farmers looted, the Cunning Folks tortured and killed, the “traitors” real or imagined hung without rule of law, the women and children raped and left half mad: this was English violence unleashed.
The one we pretend isn’t there. The one we hide behind sports and stiff upper lips and so on. The one that simmers and you sometimes see in football hooliganism, drunken fights, blood sports and riots.
I feel like a learned a lot reading this book (the research is excellent) about how history repeats itself. Yet it wasn’t a sour book it is full of hope, love and good intentions. I devoured it wholly, reading it near constantly from the moment I got it until I was done. I can see this would be a great holiday read, especially if you were traveling in the UK.
I can imagine this would be a great read if you had the opportunity to read it in London. There is a great affection for London in this book and visiting landmarks from the book from pubs to palaces would be both entertaining and interesting. Maybe you could watch Mother Thames and dream how different our lives would all be if the stars had aligned differently and great and terrible men had listened to angels instead of stubborn hate.