Bess is a witch living in modern times. She also happens to be over 300 years old. She’s just moved into a new house and has caught the attention of a local girl named Tegan. As Bess and Tegan spend time together, Bess recounts tales of her life as a way of instructing Tegan in magic and witchcraft. The tales of Bess’ life are simultaneously cautionary ones about the dangers of powerful men and their relentless pursuit of what they perceive as theirs and about carving out space that is personal and protected.
Overall this book is decent. Because we are able to hear Bess recount so much of her life is such very different times (from a plague stricken village to the battlefield of World War 1 to modern times) she is very developed character. And although the world in which she lives changes drastically, she has a throughline at every moment. The magic that was included bordered on the mundane which I enjoyed. Bess didn’t always conjure the elements or make things fly around the room; sometimes she just made a tincture or a lotion, cooked a good meal, or was nice to a wild animal, all of which are their own magic.
What was less successful for me was the impact the narration style had on the plot. Because so much time was spent in the past, the climax and resolution of the book didn’t land in the present. I cared more about Bess’ past lives than I did her and Tegan’s present lives. And this is being nitpicky and potentially a little bit petty, but I hate the title. It is terribly misleading.
A rounded up 3.5 to 4 stars.