Friday, June 21, 2013

The Witch in the Well

And now, the chanson is complete.

I've read a lot of final installments.  Some don't feel final, and other series seem to limp to the end of the author's contract and bear the mark of a creator bored with his or her creation.  The Witch in the Well falls into neither category.  I assumed it was the final chapter in Catherine LeVendeur's saga because Sharan Newman has moved on to other series, but it doesn't read like a conclusion...and yet it does.

Catherine and her children are spending the summer at her brother's castle when they receive a summons.  All their grandfather's descendants must return to their ancestral home to fulfill a prophesy and save the castle's well.  Everyone includes Catherine's sister Agnes, who married a German man, and their mother, Madeline, who broke with reality several years before and has been living in the Paraclete convent and has been escorted to Boisvert by Edgar's younger half-sister Margaret, as well as Catherine, Edgar,  Guillaume, Marie, and both couples' children.

They arrive at Boisvert after a strange encounter with an old woman who was trampled by one of their horses, and then disappears as if by magic.  Things get stranger when they meet their cousins.  There are no children and people seem unable to die.  That is, until one of Catherine stumbles across the body of one of her cousins, apparently stabbed to death by Madeline.  Madeline disappears soon afterwards, and all assume that she drowned herself in the drying well.  While Catherine tries to solve the prophesy, the castle prepares for a siege and tries to discover the traitor in their midst.

Newman's solution ties both plot threads together nicely, covering the mysticism with a layer of rational cause and effect, but more importantly, she brought the LeVendeur family saga to a happy ending.  Catherine and Agnes still bicker like children, but they love and appreciate each other.  All three siblings and their spouses work well together and love each other through the occasional exasperations of family life.  The ending for high-born Margaret and Catherine's cousin Solomon is more bittersweet, but delicately written and the best the characters can expect.  The Witch in the Well is a good mystery, bookended by scenes from an affectionate family's ordinary life.

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