A Long Day in Lychford by Paul Cornell. ★★★1/2
A Long Day in Lychford is the third in Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford series, a group of novellas that center on three women in a small town in rural England’s Cotswalds. Although each novella has its own plot line, I suggest reading them in order due to the character developments.
In A Long Day in Lychford, the series touches on current events. There’s always been conflict between Judith and Amber, and it comes to a head in this installment. Amber’s basically the only person of color in Lychford, and she’s always felt like a bit of an outsider because of it. When Brexit happens, she sees it as another sign that she’s not welcome in her own home. In her intense emotions, Amber commits an act of magic she soon regrets.
I’m not sure how I feel about this series bringing in current events. On one hand, I tend to read fiction to try and escape from the daily hellscape that is current events (this used to be less true, but then 2016 happened). On the other, I can see why the series needs to address Brexit, xenophobia, and rising norms of intolerance. After all, as Amber points out, their entire function as witches is to maintain the spiritual borders of the town and keep things out. On a related note, I liked that Amber brought up the subtle racism of “dark = evil,” which I’m not sure is something I’ve seen another fantasy story discuss. It’s terminology I’m sure I’ve used in reviews of other fantasy stories, and I appreciate the reminder to be more careful in how I use words.
I also appreciated the extent to which A Long Day in Lychford was about being an outsider and the difficulties of that in a small, rural community. It’s always been an underlying theme with our three leads, all of whom are outsiders in some way: Lizzie as the local priest, Judith as an isolated old woman, and Amber as a local eccentric. However, the series hadn’t previously addressed Amber’s feelings about being one of only two people of color in the area, so I’m glad this facet of her identity was explored.
It was perhaps inevitable that Amber and Judith would seriously butt heads. Judith can be self centered and brash, not always seeing other people’s point of view or being sensitive to their feelings. While I’ve enjoyed reading about her in fiction, I think I would have difficulty getting along with her in real life.
Finally, A Long Day in Lychford contains some character developments and events that I’m sure will ripple through the next novellas. I have the feeling that there is change coming, and I intend to keep reading to meet it.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.