Towards the end of season three, Gabrielle Miller (an actress well known in Canada) guest starred on Lost Girl as the ringleader for a small coven of witches. She had enough power to cause a bit of trouble for Bo and the gang, but when it came down to it, she was no match for Bo’s amped up strength. Whether Bo’s help is thanks to friend or foe we’re still not sure yet, but will hopefully discover quickly when the new run begins.
The witches portrayed in Lost Girl were of the suburban variety, complete with talismans and herbal remedies in their retinue, and practicing their ‘craft’ behind closed doors. In fiction, you have everything under the sun when it comes to the composition of a witch. From the green-skinned Wicked Witch in L. Frank Baum’s (and Gregory Maguire’s) stories to the dark, addictive Chess Putnam series by Stacia Kane, no altar stone is left unturned.
In fact, searching for popular fiction that contains this variation of the supernatural provides results that could possibly rival the vast collection of vampire novels out there. From this list, it’s hard to narrow down the best of the best when it comes to witchy literature, but let’s see if a cross section of this subgenre will help.
What to Read
Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. It’s been quite a number of years since I’ve read this book and little remains in my mind beyond the feeling of romance, horror, and Rice’s signature storytelling abilities. This means it’s a perfect time to take another look at this book, as well as the follow-ups, Lasher and Taltos.
The Witching Hour sets off in San Francisco but we’re quickly swept back to New Orleans, where Rice fermented the eeriness of the place in her vampire Lestat books. In a city that has been renowned for its links to voodoo or magic, the setting is perfect for this Southern Gothic tome.
“Something about a doorway,” he said, “I could swear ir. But again, I can’t see these things now. It’s getting thinner all the time. But I know there was a number involved in it. And there was a jewel. A beautiful jewel. I can’t even call this recollection now. It’s more like faith. But I believe all those things were mixed up with it. And then it’s all mixed up with going home, with this sense of having to do something tremendously important, and New Orleans is part of it, and this street where I used to walk when I was a kid.”
“First Street. It’s a beautiful stretch, from Magazine Street near where I grew up , to St. Charles Avenue, about five blocks or so, and it’s an old old part of town they call the Garden District.”
“Where the witches live,” she said.
“Oh, yes, right, the witches of the Garden District,” he said, smiling.
Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches. At close to six hundred pages (in the hardcover edition), this book requires a commitment of sorts. But by the end of the story, if you enjoy it the way I did, you will appreciate the effort put into it.
Diana Bishop has been working hard to live a scholarly life, fighting her natural powers. But, fighting against nature always leads to more trouble than its worth. As Bishop is researching in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, she soon realizes that a book with strange powers is being sought by all manner of people with less than pure intentions. With a vampire accomplice, Dr. Bishop takes readers on a ride through history, science, and romance.
The manuscript let out a soft sigh.
A quick glance over my shoulder assured me that the room was still empty. The only other sound was the loud ticking of the reading room’s clock.
Deciding not to record “Book sighed,” I turned to my laptop and opened up a new file. This familiar task—one that I’d done hundreds if not thousands of times before—was as comforting as my list’s neat checkmarks. I typed the manuscript name and number and copied the title from the catalogue description. I eyed its size and binding, describing both in detail.
The only thing left to do was open the manuscript.
It was difficult to lift the cover, despite the loosened clasps, as if it were stuck to the pages below. I swore under my breath and rested my hand flat on the leather for a moment, hoping that Ashmole 782 simply needed a chance to know me. It wasn’t magic, exactly, to put your hand on top of a book. My palmed tingled, much as my skin tingled when a witch looked at me, and the tension left the manuscript. After that, it was easy to lift the cover.
Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking. Like most books with supernatural elements, there is a mystery needing to be solved. Where it differs is in its lead character, Rachel Morgan, a bounty hunting witch in a rich, inventive world of Ms. Harrison’s creation.
It was the interns that did the nitty-gritty day-to-day policing of Cincinnati and its largest suburb across the river, affectionately known as the Hollows. We picked up the supernatural stuff that the human-fun FIB—short for Federal Inderland Bureau—couldn’t handle. Minor spell disturbances and rescuing familiars out of trees were in the realm of the I.S. intern. But I was a full runner, damn it. I was better than this. I had done better than this.
It had been I who single-handedly tracked down and apprehended the circle of dark witches who were circumventing the Cincinnati Zoo’s security spells to steal the monkeys, selling them to an underground biolab. But did I get any recognition for that? No.
It had been I who realized that the loon digging up bodies in one of the churchyards was linked to the spate of deaths in the organ replacement wing in one of the human-run hospitals. Everyone assumed he was gathering materials to make illegal spells, not charming the organs into temporary health, then selling them on the black market.
What to Watch
Witches are a popular visual in television and movies. Mentioned before was the Wicked Witch of the West in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, and for many of us became the stereotype. Branching out to Tabitha on Bewitched, The Witches of Eastwick, or Marnie’s arrival in Bon Temps in season three of True Blood, we saw a whole new side to these powerful women (and sometimes men.)
But none can rival Charmed in its portrayal of three modern day witches working diligently to make the world a better place. They battle all manner of demons, as well as the odd human that tries to stop them from their destined duties. With all this, they also have to try to find love, jobs, and a modicum of peace in the their lives which is made that much harder because of their need for secrecy. All seven seasons of Charmed can be found on Netflix, as well as re-runs shown on TV.
Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.