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Reviewed by Stephen Fisher for Readers' Favorite
The Witch of Blacklion by Joy Ross Davis is an exquisitely written story that takes place in the village of Blacklion, Northern Ireland during World War I. This wonderfully written tale begins with the introduction of its two guardians, Old Shelly and Mordecai. Mordecai is a Guardian Angel, and Old Shelly is a beautiful shape-shifter who assumes the role of a mysterious old witch accused of being a baby killer. This event happened when a woman brought her infant baby to Old Shelly to cure her ailing child. Old Shelly unsuccessfully tried to tell the mother that there was no hope. So when the mother pleaded desperately for Shelly to help her, Shelly took the terminally ill baby inside and cradled it until the little one passed. When the baby was brought back out, the mother began screaming at Shelly and accusing her of killing her baby. All it took was one witness to the exchange for the mantle of "Baby Killer" to be associated with Old Shelly forever. For the most part, the story is based on the lives of two families. The first one is Rory Dunlavy, his wife, Mazey, and their 5-year-old son, Piglet. The second family is Dr. Richard Haynes and his wife, Laura, to whom Richard proposed immediately upon meeting her.
Ms. Davis does a remarkable job of bringing this story to life. When Laura meets some fashion designers from the United States, they invite her and her mother to come visit. On the return trip, however, after describing the elegance of the luxury cruiser, The Lusitania, all I could think was, "Oh oh! Not good!" Sure enough, when the conversation of the war was brought up, and Laura mentioned safety on board, her mother commented that during war, no one was safe. Right on cue, disaster strikes in the form of two German U-boat torpedoes. Joy Ross Davis's description of the disaster was done flawlessly, as well as the trauma that ensued for the survivors.
The Witch of Blacklion was an amazing read from start to finish. At first I wondered why the author introduced the major characters at the beginning, but was glad that she did because she supplied the background for the story, much like the stage settings for a play. All of the characters were diverse and very real for that time and era. Joy Ross Davis really captured the landscapes, the cultures, and the events of the early 1900s. I highly recommend this wonderful story. It was told so vividly that you could actually visualize everything. All I could say at the end was, "Wow! What a story!" Brava!