I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.
When sitting down to begin this review I found myself reminded of the time my husband was participating in a writer’s forum and a new member had posted a short story for critique. Sadly, the story wasn’t very good but my husband wanted to offer some kind of encouragement, so he told the writer that one of the story’s strengths was that it had a beginning, middle, and end. Copper Witch probably isn’t quite that bad – I know several reviewers have given it high marks – but for me, I found myself reading it in more of that “slowing down to look at a car wreck” kind of way then anything.
The book started off terribly slow, I was fully a quarter into the book before it felt like the plot was actually going somewhere, and much of the writing just felt lazy. There is no world-building to speak of, minimal scene setting, and – aside from Adela’s social climbing – little in the way character development. There really isn’t even any kind of a villain to speak of. Worse, the erstwhile heroine of the story is difficult to like, and once the plot gets underway, it moves so quickly that characters simply drop out of the story and there are almost no consequences for the questionable actions that characters take.
When the story begins we meet 15-year-old Adela Tilton, the future baroness of Penrith, and Antony Fletcher, a local painter who has been hired by her grandmother to paint her portrait. After spending most of the day flirting relentlessly with Antony – pushing all of his buttons, to say nothing of the boundaries of propriety – she decides she would like to learn to paint, and by the next day Antony finds himself installed in the household as her new art tutor. Adela seems to spend more time trying to seduce Antony then she does trying to learn to paint, something her lady’s maid, Lettice, disapproves of highly and keeps trying to thwart – with little success.
Soon, Adela’s grandmother falls ill and Adela in his shipped off to stay with aunt in another town. Coincidentally, her aunt has also invited a Duke and his family – including his son, an Earl in his own right – to stay at the family home for a bit, in the hopes of making a match between her eldest daughter and the Earl. In what is just the first of several iterations of a pattern, the Earl, upon seeing the Adela, becomes instantly enamoured of her and within days is making arrangements so that they can be together. They quickly become engaged, and thus begins Adela’s whirlwind climb to the top of society.
At no time are we ever given a clear explanation for Adela’s constant success in achieving her ambitions, though there are hints that it maybe due to a copper bracelet she wears. She says it was given to her by a fortuneteller who supposedly told her that as long as she wore the bracelet she would get whatever she wants. If that is the case, however, it seems maybe the magic didn’t work as well as it should. Adela certainly does seem to get a great deal of what she wants, but by no means does she get everything she wants and – at times – she gets things that she very much doesn’t want.
The story is filled with a number of twists and turns, but because there’s no villain or force trying to prevent Adela’s success, it never feels like Adela is ever really in any danger. Even the one time she is faced with losing what she’s achieved, there stand yet another enamoured man ready to hand it all right back to her.
“The Copper Witch” is the first book in a trilogy (plus a novella) but even though all we see here is roughly two years from Adela’s life, from what I understand, the other two full novels deal with Adela’s descendants, rather than continuing her own story, though some of that is covered in the novella. This isn’t a series, though, that I plan to follow up on.