The Warding of Willowmere (Willowmere Chronicles, Book 2)|
by Alison Baird
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|A Review of: The Warding of Willowmere
by M. Wayne Cunningham
"Why should a witch be phoning a nun?" That's one of the
many questions Willowmere teenager, Claire Norton, must find an
answer to as she tip-toes through a minefield of mind games between
Wiccans, witches, warlocks, and daimons, good and bad, in Alison
Baird's second volume in the Willowmere Chronicles. Claire's tight
wire act is as suspenseful as any you'll find. For the Claire Norton
you see really isn't Claire Norton, or at least not just Claire
Norton. She's also a revenant, a reincarnation of a 17th century
Scottish lass, Alice Ramsay, and before that of Flower-in-a-drought,
a maiden in the ancient hinterlands of Africa. In Scotland she was
falsely persecuted and killed for being a witch; in Africa she
challenged a shaman, Mamba, and his rogue daimon ally, Phobetor.
She was helped by her Familiar, Leo, whose ability to shift-shape
into animal, large and small, she had picked up as well.
Claire and Leo are now in more modern times but facing the same
adversaries from the past, the same evil wolves in sheep's clothing,
still up to their age-old efforts to enslave all of humanity. For
good measure Baird incorporates the stories of the 18th century
French Beast of Gevaudan and the 1898 Kenyan killer lions and alludes
to Ogopogo and the sasquatch to add authenticity to the narrative.
But whatever guise evil chooses to shroud itself in, Claire knows
prophetically that even as she lives the life of an ordinary school
girl with gossiping chums and a mother who has mysteriously
disappeared, she must battle her former enemies and their witchcraft,
potions and spells. She finds allies (although sometimes through
circuitous routes) in her older friend Dr. Myra Moore and the
doctor's menagerie of pets; in Leo, of course; in a great horned
Owl; in an African gray parrot; and in a peregrine falcon that
hovers nearby. She gains solace from the scribblings of Al Ramsey,
Dr. Moore's uncle and a probable revenant too. And she escapes when
she can to the warm memories of her former lover, William Macfarlane.
There's the love of her current father despite his over protectiveness,
as she sees it, and edging into her life is a new-found flame, Brian
Andrews, potentially able to make her forget William.
Opposing her are the Van Burens, uncle and nephew reincarnates of
Mamba and Phobetor, their assorted rogue daimons from captured crows
to attack dogs, and a wannabe witch, a schoolmate named Josie who
finds she has more than she can handle when she falsely confesses
to being the revenant of Alice Ramsay and the Van Burens sic their
killer dogs on her.
Baird has done a masterful job of mixing and matching story
elements-Claire and her supernatural foes juxtaposed with Claire
and her tussles with her human nemesis, Josie. The background
characters and Claire's tiffs with her dad are realistically rendered.
And there's white-knuckle tension when Claire, in the shape of a
crow, narrowly escapes being shot by the elder Van Buren. The ending
of the book is neat and tidy but there are teasers for the next
book too: more dangers to come, a mother to find, a father to be
told about past lives and a puzzle to be solved about a peregrine
You'll need to read the book to find out why a witch phones a nun,
but the read will be well worth it.