Review: Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

Synopsis:

I got this book from NetGalley free of charge in return for an honest review. The plot is complicated so my synopsis will be rather long – bear with me. 🙂

Gabriel Blackstone is an information broker, hacker for police and friends :p . Along with another man, Isidore, a computer genius, he manages to make very plush living, stealing and selling corporate secrets. He has also a paranormal gift called Remote View – he can enter a psi space of another person, no matter whether dead or alive, and see with somebody else’s eyes what’s happening far, far away. Convenient for a hacker, right? While he was at the uni he even used to be a part of a special Remote Viewers group called Eyestorm but then, after a bad ride, he quit it.

One day a prospective client contacts him. His name is William Whittington and he wants Gabriel to find out what happened to his missing twenty-one-year old son, Robbie. However, it is not a hacker’s job that he is suggesting. William happens to be married to Gabriel’s sweetheart from Oxford, Cecily Franck – that’s how he knows about the RV gift of Gabriel and now he asks himl to use it again.

Robbie was last seen in the company of Morrighan and Minnalouche Monk. Both in their late thirties, educated, intelligent, good-looking and rich, the sisters were supposed to help Robbie to find a way of personal betterment. The much younger, impressionable boy was very taken with them and small wonder; both women, although representing different types of beauty, could be considered quite a catch. Still after slamming just one ‘ride’ Gabriel is sure one of the Monk sisters killed Robbie in cold blood. He witnessed his last moments, as the boy was first lead down a mysterious house with million doors and then, half paralyzed and drowned in a private outdoor swimming pool. The perpetrator was a woman wearing a cloak with a hood, a mask and a pendant in the tell-tale shape of M.

Intrigued, Gabriel plans to do what he is the best at: hacking. After all contemporary witches use computers and are connected to the Internet like everybody else.  He manages to approach Minnalouche, picks up with her and hacks into a PC at the Victorian house she shares with her sibling. Soon enough he is reading  a very private diary of one of the Monk sisters while sitting in his own luxurious penthouse; still he is not sure which one is the author. Then he meets Morrighan, a raven-haired beauty, an athlete and a thrill-seeker. They go bungee jumping together and, after that event, the trio becomes inseparable. Gabriel is still reading the diary, slowly falling in love with the author, hoping to find the killer, but still he is not sure which sister is writing it: Minnalouche or Morrighan.

There’s another computer at their stylish, Victorian home, a laptop, but it isn’t connected to the Internet so it cannot be remotely accessed. During one visit Gabriel switches it on and finds a secret, password-protected file called the Promethean Key. He thinks he must read it, sure that file is the key to the identity of the killer. As he tries to hack into the system the sisters are playing their own game, making him crave their company more and more. Who will prevail? Will Gabriel find out what really happened to Robbie?

My impressions:

If I happen to find a good novel concerning alchemy and occult knowledge I am hooked sooner than you can say “Hermes Trismegistus”.  “Season of the Witch” featured that much plus a sensible plot and a bunch of interesting, complicated characters. Especially the first part was a joy to read –  full of suspense and shadowy mysteries revealed bit by bit.

The relationship between Morrighan, Minnalouche and Gabriel was one of the best I’ve read for a long time. No, it was not a love triangle although it would be so easy to present it that way. However, imagine it or not, there was no sex scene till almost the very end and both sisters from the beginning were sending Gabriel a clear signal – we might flirt, no problem, but we aren’t going to be lovers. The fact that Gabe was still falling in love with a woman just because he was reading her diary, not being sure who she really was, daring not to ask because it would reveal his hacking scheme too soon, I found a great plot device, far more romantic than a hundred of steamy scenes.  It was such a simple but elegant issue, so well executed that I wanted to clap and cheer.

The paranormal elements, including the idea of a Remote Viewing and a memory palace, were very original – they blended with the modern world surprisingly well. Morrighan and Minnalouche were two powerful solar witches – think rather female alchemists than wiccans or supernatural healers. They took the occult knowledge very seriously although their approach differed. Morrighan was the muscle and the doer while Minnalouche was the sensuality and the brain. The dynamics between them , even if overshadowed by the plotting how to play Gabriel the best,  sounded real, with temporary quarrels so characteristic for siblings.

Still there were some problems, especially in the second part of the book (spoilers ahead, beware).

If you present your characters as super-intelligent, super-powerful and clever ladies they cannot, all of a sudden, make a very simple mistake. It is glaringly inconsistent and, after such a mistake, the whole premise starts to tremble like jell-o. Now riddle me this: both sisters were informed from the very start what Gabriel did for a living – he said he was a hacker, loud and clear. Still they never bothered to check the security of their own computers, preferably hiring a skilled professional; after all they did invite a skilled hacker, sometimes leaving him alone in their room, over and over again. How somebody so clever could be so blind/conceited? When they found out that he’d hacked them, they felt betrayed and angry. Honestly… a guy visits you repeatedly but he is neither your lover nor a close friend you’ve known from Adam and you never ask yourself ‘why’? After all he did admit he stole data for a living as soon as you met; then you are surprised he hacked you? I did expect something cleverer, a more convoluted and sophisticated defense, a plan worth of an alchemist. Instead, after the brilliant first part, I got two ordinary women.

Then I was surprised Gabriel went with the flow so much he never tried actively to find out which sister was writing that diary. His scheme consisted of one modus operandi: waiting. Such an inertia in a young, courageous predator could be only explained by that berry wine, made by Morrighan.

Final verdict:

Despite its shortcomings one of better paranormal novels I’ve read for a long time, featuring two strong female character and a great guy to boot.

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6 Responses to Review: Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

  1. blodeuedd says:

    Lol, why does the good ones never sound like something for me

  2. rameau says:

    I knew I’d forgotten something. I’m curious but the word “hacker” is giving me an allergic reaction.

  3. heidenkind says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read this yet but now I want to even more!

Comments are closed.