Paul Cornell: Five Lychford Novellas – for your reading pleasure

I read each of these novellas as they were published. Each one stands alone, but together the five novellas make a complete story cycle.

The Witches of Lychford A neat novella set in a sleepy Gloucestershire town threatened with the coming of a supermarket. Opinion is divided as to whether it’s a good idea or not, But Judith, the town’s resident witch knows that it will be a magical disaster of epic proportions. Building a new supermarket and altering the roads around the town centre will open ancient gateways and let in evil, potentially causing the apocalypse. At the heart of the supermarket proposal is a man–if man he is–who embodies the evil. All that stands against him is a seventy-something year old witch with no friends, the local magic shop proprietor with a reputation for mental health problems, and the town’s new (female) vicar with a tragedy in her past and a crisis of faith looming over her.

The Lost Child of Lychford. The three witches of Lychford are challenged once again when a ghost child finds its way into Lizzie’s church. What does it want? When Lizzie realises that it’s the ghost of a child still happily living in Lychford she enlists the help of her two witchy friends, Judith Mawson and Autumn, the local witchcraft shop owner, to track down the significance of the apparition. They’re on a deadline. Christmas is coming and unless they can do something about a magical incursion it may never arrive. Each one of them faces a personal challenge. This is the second of Paul Cornell’s Lychford novellas and the characters continue to develop. Lovely.

A Long Day in Lychford. Lizzy, Judith and Autumn are the three resident witches of Lychford, a sleepy Gloucestershire town. It’s up to them to solve disappearances, but in the wake of Brexit Autumn is questioning her place in Lychford because of her skin colour, and Judith is struggling to keep herself together and pass on her knowledge to Lizzy and Autumn before it’s too late. When people start to go missing, our trio discover that they are being pulled across boundaries. There’s political trouble at home and trouble in the world of faerie, too. Each woman is on her own to rescue a particular group of strayed humans. Cornell managed to bring real world concerns into the magical world and the wave of anti-foreigner sentiment affects Lychford, too. A thoroughly enjoyable read, if a little uncomfortable at times as the three women’s sentiments are laid bare.

The Lights Go Out in Lychford. This is the fourth of Paul Cornell’s Lychford novellas featuring Lizzie, the Anglican vicar, Judith Mawson, elderly hedge witch and wise-woman and Autumn, her apprentice wise woman and magic-shop owner. The three of them keep Lychford free of magical threats. The not-so-sleepy village lies on a confluence between magical worlds, and threats seem to come out of nowere. Judith, always a little ‘odd’ has Alzheimers. She has moments of clarity but also moments of confusion. Her son, Shaun, who knows about his mum’s magic, is contemplating putting her in a home, but for the moment is waiting to see how things develop. When Autumn figures out that there’s a magical threat and she and Lizzie track it down to a woman named Picton who is offering ‘wishes’ with all the potential damage they can do if carried out literally.. With Judith only intermittently helpful, they think they’ve discovered what Picton is and neutralised her, but the threat much more than they thought, and might even change reality itself. In the end it’s Judith who is the key. I love these novellas. There’s a delightful interplay between the three main characters. I admit I had to brush away a tear or two at the end.

Last Stand in Lychford. With Judith gone, it’s up to Autumn (magic shop owner) and Lizzie (vicar) to save the sleepy Cotswold town of Lychford from an incursion of enemy magic which will not only destroy the town, but the universe as well. Right, then… better not muck it up, ladies. The enemy intends to destroy all borders between worlds to the detrement of the fae and the humans. Judith might be gone, but she’s certainly not forgotten, and she’s left help. There’s a new viewpoint character, Zoya, a Ukrainian immigrant single mum who has mysteriously been unaffected by the magical rain which made the townsfolk able to sense magic (which makes her wonder “why everyone here is now bugfuck crazy in the head”). Expect exploding fairies, the return of a previous antagonist, a message from beyond the grave, some gruesome deaths, and three brave women trying to save the universe. It’s a satisfying end to the Lychford cycle.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com).
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