Title: Witch Myth: A Yew Hollow Mystery Book 0: Beneath the Yew
Publisher/Author: Alexandria Clarke*
Pages: 79 pp
Morgan Summers has come home — reluctantly. Ten years ago she left tiny, provincial Yew Hollow for New York City, intent on making her own way. As a highly trained hereditary witch with a penchant for talking to ghosts, Morgan figured she would have no trouble supporting herself, proving herself to her mother and the coven she left behind. Such was not the case. Now dead broke and sporting only a few pieces of luggage and the clothes on her back, she has returned just in time for Yew Hollow’s annual reenactment of the town’s founding … and just in time to stumble across the scene of a ritual murder, and to be blamed for the slaughter herself ….
I was surfing the B&N site one day and impulsively downloaded Beneath the Yew. I wanted something with a positive portrayal of witches, so I decided to give Clarke’s story a chance.
I’m glad that I did. Clarke packs a lot of world-building and characterization into only seventy-nine pages. Here, only women are witches, and Yew Hollow was founded by the remains of a coven who fled persecution in Salem. The human citizens of Yew Hollow are well aware of the witches in their midst, and most are used to the odd display of magic. But there is still an undercurrent of hostility, which begins to come out in the wake of the horrific murder.
Additionally, while any witch can cast a variety of spells, each witch has one unique skill: Morgan can speak with ghosts; her mother Cassandra can see thirty seconds into the future; of her sisters, Malia can “read” inanimate objects, Laurel can communicate with trees, and Karma can manipulate voodoo dolls. Their brother Wren, on the other hand, has no powers whatsoever. Only Morgan really cares for him. The rest of the family and the coven barely tolerate him.
Morgan is a terrific character. She wants to ignore her abilities and live her own life, yet feels ethically bound to help the ghost of the murdered woman. She is justifiably outraged when townspeople let their fear override their reason, and threaten to expel all the witches from Yew Hollow. I also totally understand why she left Yew Hollow in the first place, and why she is so embarrassed and annoyed at having to return. Yes, she loves her family. But, like all people, they have some serious flaws; prejudices and assumptions which leave them blind to their own shortcomings and the danger all around them.
Beneath the Yew is a terrific urban fantasy/murder mystery with a wonderfully witchy protagonist. It’s a great introduction to the rest of the series. Books one and two are currently available only for kindle, but they could get wider distribution in the future. (Be aware, though, that book one ends on a cliffhanger.)
Recommended to fans of Devon Monk’s Death and Relaxation, Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, JL Bryan’s Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper books, and MH Boroson’s The Girl With Ghost Eyes.