Severn sisters…

Somewhere along the banks of the river Severn there is a small tumbledown stone cottage, with a patchy thatched roof which I suspect the local swallows have been stealing away for nesting material for a decade or so. A small plume of wood smoke from the crooked chimney lets you know it’s occupied rather than abandoned. You know there is a stove below that chimney and something is slowly bubbling away on it…

The garden that has lost a battle with weeds and brambles, if not the war, made it hard to be sure if that was the case. Though the trio of large sunflowers, tied to bamboo canes, should have been a clue. Strange mosses gather on the old stones and an old stump in the middle of the garden has long been given over to interesting fungi, which is either delicious, deadly or both. There is also an old well at the back of the garden. Not the picturesque kind that grants wishes, but the kind something that was once a woman might climb out of in a thin cotton slip and drip ominously at you beneath a tangle of unkempt hair.

On the breeze as you pass by there is a smell of baking bread, and the iron tang of blood, but what you hear is the rhythmic thunder of a keyboard being struck, or perhaps wrestled into submission. A word herder is at work, and the act of creation is as violent, painful, bitter, dark, inspired and wonderful as it ever is…

Of course, none of this is true… At least in what we can loosely describe as this reality, but there are others, even if they are only realities of our imagination… And the river Severn is tidal, sometimes to an extreme degree… As is the number seven…

None of this is in any way relevant to the reason for this post or the ‘word herder’ who’s book I am reviewing. She lives in a nice little flat, in a nice little town and not a tumbledown witches cottage slowly giving itself back to the earth. But in some other version of the universe, she should, at least for a couple of days a week, in the middle of summer, if its not raining.

Spells For the Second Sister by Nimue Brown

Seven is a strange number. According to numerology the number seven represents perfection and is a symbol of eternal life. Seven suggest completeness, there are seven wonders, seven days to the week. It is also the number of change, it is often said that at the age of seven we become complete within ourselves and our true personalities manifest. While its multiples in years are also times of change. At fourteen we truly become teenagers. At twenty-one we become truly adults with all the horror that entails. At twenty-eight we start to look for something more than hedonism and joy. At thirty-five we confront the panic of a looming middle age, half out three score and ten already gone… Forty-two we reconcile with the past and access the future with an acceptance we could not find before… Then at Forty-nine and we rip apart reality and reorder all existence… As for fifty-six I’ll let you know when if I get there…

Spells For a Second Sister is by way of a journal written by Kathleen Sylvia West, documenting her life, starting with the evens of her fourteenth year and moving up in increments of seven. How true any of the events described are is a matter of perspective. Also which version of Kathleen is writing her journal is also a mater of perspective. She’s not entirely sure herself much of the time, what is true, what is false recollection, what is wishful thinking, what isn’t. Which version of Gloucester did she wake up in this morning. Is the sinister mouse circus still opposite the cafe? Whats at the heart of the bookshop? Who is Merryweather? How exactly do you bake bread with blood in the middle? Is the tide coming in?

With a supporting cast of ‘interesting’ individuals including other versions of herself, this is at times horror story, fairy tale, urban fantasy, coming of age, philosophical, parable for the modern age and just a little Micheal Moorcock at his most surrealist. While its not in anyway similar to his ‘The Fireclown’/’the Winds of Limbo’ it has a vibe that reminds me of it.

There is a lot, and I do mean a lot, that could be unpacked here. Philosophy, morality, existential guilt, self-loathing, self-consuming… There are a lot of levels to this novel, its smart, sexy, funny, engrossing and layered with complexity. As well as the number seven…

Or its just escapist waffling fun with lines line this randomly sneaking up on you…

...the Local unicorn is a pervert.

The novel works on whatever level you wish to consume it. Though it is hard to walk away form it without some complex thoughts. I am still trying to digest it myself. Not to mention some of the singular lines contained within it. What I do know is it was weird, wonderful and wild.


About Mark Hayes

Writer A messy, complicated sort of entity. Quantum Pagan. Occasional weregoth Knows where his spoon is, do you? #author #steampunk
This entry was posted in amreading, book reviews, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, pagan, pointless things of wonderfulness, quotes, reads and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Severn sisters…

  1. Nimue Brown says:

    Reblogged this on Druid Life and commented:
    Mark Hayes – bless him – waded into the madness that is Spells for the Second Sister, and blogged about it. He’s a splendid chap and if you’re into the steampunk fiction side of life, do sign up for his blog.

    If you’re looking for the book in question, you can ick it up for free over here –


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