The Bearwood Witch
The Wolf Sisters
Susan Price loves guts and gore. Add a good dollop of gruesome magic and young people caught up in deeds beyond their comprehension, and you have a fine formula for page-turning horrors.
Price aims for Stephen King's aura of menace: she doesn't quite capture his knack of imbuing personalities with demonic echoes but she is convincing when she draws her characters as half-formed adolescents torn between good and evil. Both these novels could be enjoyed by readers over 12.
In The Bearwood Witch, Duncan, a Big Issue seller recently redeemed from a life of youthful drunkenness by a born-again Christian experience, gets caught up in the unsavoury attempts of Zoe to bring her layabout boyfriend back from the dead.
Best is the witch, an impoverished but educated woman who lives in a down-at-heel terrace in inner-city Birmingham and makes fun of the usual patter of mediums and of Zoe's affection for her scallywag lost love. Worst, for a sceptical adult, is the blood-spattered battle between angels and demons.
The Wolf Sisters is a crisper account of a teenage boy in Saxon times who falls in with shape-changers and get drawn into the conflict between Christians and pagans. A few passages are genuinely spine-chilling, but the narrative flows best when it details life in a monastery or a feast in the king's hall.
Times Educational Supplement, March 2nd, 2001
The Bearwood Witch can be found at:
The Wolf Sisters can be found at:
Sue Price says:
The great thing about having a website to put your reviews on, is you can answer back!
It's a pretty good review, and I'm grateful for that - but I don't know why the reviewer thought I was
aiming at anything connected with Stephen King. I've nothing against the man - his book on writing is excellent - but I've hardly read anything by him, and never think of him from one decade's
end to another, any more than he's ever thought of me. I wasn't aiming to do anything at all like him. Just because two contemporary writers write in the same genre, it doesn't mean that the
least famous one was trying to imitate the other.
If I was aiming at any other writers 'aura of menace' it would be that of M R James. And I know I don't get anywhere near it.
I'm sorry she found the bloody battle between demons and angels too far a stretch. I'm pretty sceptical myself, but this account was based on what I was told by 'a recovering alcoholic' who hadn't touched a drop of drink for 30 years after seeing a vision of the forces of good and evil battling for possesion of his soul. It was vividly real to him, even after so many years.
But I'm glad she liked the witch, who was great fun to write.
And I know she didn't have much space - but I think 'shape-changers' short-changes the wolf-sisters a bit. They are more like forces of nature, pagan goddesses - that's why they're so hard to handle!