Brackston breaks from her usual fare, witches in conflict with society begun with The Witchís Daughter, the tale of a flesh-and-blood woman and (putative) witch who follows a path that inspires the wrath of suspicious folk terrified by the inexplicable. In this novel, the author embraces the breach of time and place in a magical fantasy between a 9th-century shaman and the arrival of young widow Tilda Fordwells in current-day Wales. The seer, Seren Arianaidd, inhabits a small island, a crannog that floats on Llangors Lake in the 9th century. There she serves the interests of Prince Brynach, interpreting visions that he might keep his people safe from the encroachment of a warlike queen. Serenís visions portend betrayal for the prince, whose wife, Wenna, remains childless, depending on the potions of her servant, Nesta, to heal her barrenness. Seren bows to no one save her prince, duty-bound to report what her troubling visions reveal, treachery brewing within the ranks among those he trusts.
Serenís drama plays out in chapters that alternate with the recent arrival to the lakeside. The widow Tilda has returned to the cottage purchased with her husband, Mat, and his memory shadows her every move as she assembles the kiln and studio to begin again the work they shared. A devoted runner who sorts her thoughts at the break of each new day as she travels around the lake, Tilda is drawn to the water yet wary of its depth. Regardless of century, each woman is physically striking, with the pale coloring of the albino, flowing silver locks, and near-translucent eyes.
Time slips away as Tilda begins to experience visions of Seren, the gradual melding of centuries drawing her closer to the mysterious woman who haunts her dreams, the unraveling of a mystery that will deliver the drama of another century into the present. As Tilda draws closer to Seren, the seed of betrayal that cost a prince his kingdom intrudes on the present in a growing threat to Dylan, a man Tilda may learn to love. An ancient demon is released that has not found peace in death and seeks to destroy the life Tilda is building, the first glimmer of happiness since Matís tragic death.
Without the weight of history to ground these characters, Brackston depends on imagination and fantasy to propel her story, asking the reader to eschew reality, Tilda experiences otherworldly powers and conflicts by association with Serenís ancient arts, logic cast aside in favor of magical projection. Her storytelling powers, once so compelling in fiction grounded in historical fact, are, for this reader, diluted. Any real character development is delegated to the fantastical, a light novel for those who crave distraction, a fairy tale in lieu of a complex work of fiction. Enchantment forfeit to endurance in lieu of reality, this novel begs for a savvy editor to harness its potential. Would that we all could escape occasionally to a ninth-century island.