Rosemary Edghill has written a trilogy of mystery novels about a modern-day witch named Bast. Bast is a freelance graphic artist at Houston Graphics who practices Wicca in New York City. She is an established member of the NYC occult community and a third degree initiate in the mysteries of Wicca. I purchased all three books, Speak Daggers to Her, Book of Moons, and The Bowl of Night as one volume.
My main interest in reading these books was to examine how Edghill incorporates the realistic use of witchcraft into her books. The main character in my thesis novel also practices Wicca, and I am still working out the best possible portrayal of Wicca in fiction. When I first considered writing a witch, I didn’t want to introduce an element of the paranormal or fantasy into my thesis, as it is supposed to show how a real-life practitioner actually uses magic in their everyday life.
It is also difficult to know which “flavor” of paganism to portray… Gardnerian Wicca, Santeria, the O.T.O, Dianic… and on and on. It’s tough because even those that practice Wicca, most likely practice something different than what I practice. There is no set dogma in the Craft. I personally practice Wicca– eclectic with a Gardnerian tilt– it is what I am familiar with, it is what I seek to bring into the mainstream in a positive way and so it makes sense for me to use it.
Rosemary Edghill’s books are some of the few which portray Wicca as a it is in “real life,” without the paranormal cast. These are good books to help a writer consider what readers want and/or expect to see when they read about the Craft.
So, on to the first review.
Speak Daggers to Her, the first book in the trilogy. We meet the main character, Bast a.k.a. Karen Hightower, and the cast of characters. This contains slight spoilers.
Bast is at work when her friend Lace calls to tell her that she has found their mutual friend (Lace’s lover), Miriam Seabrook, dead in her apartment. Lace, being of the anti-establishment ilk, bolts from the apartment, leaving Bast to report the death and handle the busywork.
One thing leads to another and Bast quickly discovers that Miriam has been involved with a questionable occult group called Baba Yaga. The leader of the group, Michael Ruslan, knows more than he lets on and Bast finds herself in hot water with him and with her community. Bast is convinced that Ruslan is practicing black magic, a big no-no in the community, along with using drugs during his rituals without the knowledge or consent of his circle. Bast is certain that Ruslan is responsible for Miriam’s death, whether karmically or literally, and she sets out to prove it.
Reading this book felt very much like slipping on my favorite pair of slippers (and that’s really saying something because I have a seriously committed relationship with my slippers). I was very familiar with the flavor of Wicca portrayed in Speak Daggers to Her and I related strongly with the main character. Bast’s experiences in the various occults shops closely mirror my own. Her opinions of the Craft and some of the practices of Wicca are similar to mine as well.
Therefore I found her portrayal of the Craft in fiction to be pretty accurate. She is very heavy with magic/paganism in the plot, indeed this installment revolves a death by magical means or by means attained during the practice of magic. The bad guy is caught in the end basically by karma (the rule of what goes around, comes around… threefold… the Wiccan Rede). Her plot is dependent on the tenets of magic and how it works.
Edghill’s books are the best I’ve found for incorporating paganism and Wiccan magic into writing without also incorporating a paranormal element. Highly recommended.