The Lighthouse Witches
Rating - ⭐⭐
"Two sisters go missing on a remote Scottish island. Twenty years later, one is found--but she's still the same age as when she disappeared. The secrets of witches have reached across the centuries in this chilling Gothic thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Nesting.
When single mother Liv is commissioned to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse on a remote Scottish island, it's an opportunity to start over with her three daughters--Luna, Sapphire, and Clover. When two of her daughters go missing, she's frantic. She learns that the cave beneath the lighthouse was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft. The locals warn her about wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children, created by witches for revenge. Liv is told wildlings are dangerous and must be killed.
Twenty-two years later, Luna has been searching for her missing sisters and mother. When she receives a call about her youngest sister, Clover, she's initially ecstatic. Clover is the sister she remembers--except she's still seven years old, the age she was when she vanished. Luna is worried Clover is a wildling. Luna has few memories of her time on the island, but she'll have to return to find the truth of what happened to her family. But she doesn't realize just how much the truth will change her."
The Lighthouse Witches is an upcoming novel by C.J. Cooke.
First and foremost I would like to thank NetGalley and Berkely Books for sending me a copy for review. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that because what I received was an ARC, things may be subject to change for the final copy.
I...I honestly don't really know what to say about this book or how to rate it. This was, for me, honestly just a complete mess of a story. I feel like the guy from the Bachelor Australia who had no idea what to say when someone replied that they were a Gemini after he said he was an astrophysicist. Complete and utter bewilderment.
Let's just go straight into the details on why I had such a reaction to this book. Based on other reviews I have seen though, I seem to be in the minority, so you can judge for yourself whether or not this is a book for you. I will also include a spoiler section at the end, so if you don't want to be spoiled, you can stop reading after the concluding thoughts.
I don't have any issues with the writing itself, but where the fault lies, for me, is with the format of the story. This is a multi-timeline and multi-perspective book. Part of the story is also told through the use of a book on the town's past. Because the plot is divided this way, the story felt very fragmented. I understand the point in using multiple timelines and perspectives as each one tells a different part of the story, but I found that by the time it got back around to a certain character's perspective, I had already forgotten what happened last with them.
The story was just too spaced out which made it feel disjointed and like it was a series of different stories. Another aspect of the format that I found made the story very disjointed was the subchapters. Each chapter was divided into sections labeled by roman numerals. The abrupt transition between each subchapter made the story stop in place instead of continually flowing.
The story was at best a hodgepodge, and at worst, a mess of plotlines that didn't blend well together. Once everything was starting to be revealed, I sat there confused because I had no idea why that was the direction the author chose to go in. While I am sure a lot of people would enjoy it, the plot twist for me came out of left field and made no sense in relation to the rest of the story. It was almost like all the plotlines were meant to be from separate stories, but were thrown together without any cohesion between them. I honestly felt a bit cheated by the time I finished the book because I didn't get what I signed up for.
The way information was being dispensed was a bit too casual and offhand at times and, as I said before, the use of the multiple timelines and perspectives made it a bit confusing to follow along. There were also added bits of information that I felt added nothing to the narrative except to fill up space. For example, did the reader really need to know how Luna aggressively ate tomatoes like apples, no, no they did not? I also did not need to know that Saffy wanted to lick Brodie's knees...
I had no feelings really for any of the characters as they all fell flat for me. The exception to this would be Saffy, but it isn't a good exception. Saffy, or Sapphire, had no personality and was more or less just one big ball of teenage angst and bad decisions. Her relationship with pretty much every single character in the book wasn't healthy, and I found myself questioning her motives time and time again.
The relationship dynamics between all of the characters were a bit messy. Because we don't really get a general sense of how long the family had been staying at the Longing, all of the relationships felt very rushed. You didn't get to see them getting to know each other, it was just one second they were strangers, and the next they were being rather intimate.
This was just one long trip into the land of confusion. Nothing about this book made any sense to me really. I will give a recommendation for a TV show to watch instead in the spoiler section, as it would be a big giveaway for the latter half of the book. I would also still recommend that you try this book out for yourself to see if the story works for you or if you came out just as baffled as me.
Warning - This Section Includes Spoilers - Read At Your Discretion
So what was it about this book that made me so baffled? Well, for most of the book you are lead to believe that the everything that was happening was due to the town's link to witch trials. The book is also called The Lighthouse Witches, so that seemed to be the most logical direction for the plot to go in. But, no, I was completely mislead once the plot twist came.
First of all, there was no curse and the idea of the presence of witch's pretty much just fell apart once you figured out what was actually happening. All the talk about witches only for there to be no actual witches. At least I think so because I don't think it was explained as to whether or not the women in the past were actual witches or just innocent people... Moving on though, because the real doozy is in relation to the wildlings.
The people of the town believed that wildlings, offspring of the fae, existed among them and came in the form of lookalikes of their children. In order to stop whatever devastation they will cause, the people would kill the lookalike. Turns out, they weren't wildlings at all and were in fact, wait for it, their own children that were time travelling. Yes, you heard that right, the big plot twist was about time travelling.
It turns out that a witch's cave that people were forbidden from entering, acted as a form form of time machine. So, when a kid wanders in there, they end up being spat out in a random different time with the date branded into their skin. All of this was happening because children don't think about time paradoxes and not making yourself known to your past/future selves. So, Clover disappearing in 1998 and appearing in 2021 without ageing a day was because she went through the cave.
I just...wasn't expecting it at all. While I am sure a lot of people would be blown away from the plot twist, it just didn't work for me. I really felt like I was cheated because I thought this was a book about witches, and not time travel. While in hindsight it could work and it does make sense, the messiness of the story did me not favours while I was reading it which lead to my ultimate disappointment with the direction it went in.
If you want a good story that leans directly into the time travelling aspect, without trying to cover it up, I would highly suggest you try out the Netflix German show Dark. A fantastically dark and gritty show that did the genre the right way.