Short Take: “The Demon and the Witch,” Charles E. Gray

Pros: Interesting haunting tale
Cons: Chidren’s dialogue
Rating: 3 out of 5

Charles E. Gray’s The Demon and the Witch (Guardians Book 1) pits a young woman named Tara and a 15-year-old Michael against not just a magical enemy, but also a normal one: prejudice. Most of the town believes Tara is a witch and the swamp is haunted. They blame her for a handful of missing hunters. There are ‘soft spaces’ in the world that allow some people to move through to another universe, but sometimes this brings evil, terrible things along from the spaces between the worlds. Tara is from one of these worlds, and something very evil came with her. It brings the swamp to life, using all of the creatures there as its puppets. Snakes, frogs, alligators–everything pays close attention to what Tara does. When Michael stumbles into her life she decides to tell him; after all, it’s a tiring burden to carry. She can do magic, but she needs to sleep within a magical circle just to get a good night’s sleep. When she’s attacked (by actual people) in the town itself, sheriff Bill comes to her rescue, and decides to help her with her problems. At the same time, bad guys are trying to find Tara for their own reasons.

I had difficulty with how Gray handled Michael and Tara. Their conversation felt very stilted. Oftentimes Michael sounds more like a grownup than a teenager. While these two characters were reasonably interesting, the character I empathized with and cheered for was Sheriff Bill. He was by far the most enjoyable character in the book because he had a ton of personality to go around. If Bill hadn’t been around this would not have been nearly as interesting a story, and it isn’t a great indicator when your side character is so much more interesting than your leads.

This is a relatively short book, and more to come is hinted at by the end. I don’t plan on picking up the sequel.

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