THE WITCH QUEEN

Siegel, Author, Jan Siegel, Author . Del Rey $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-345-43903-1

British author Siegel offers stylish, satisfying fantasy-horror fare in her third installment in the story of Fern Capel, a cute London PR whiz and fledgling witch. In the first two novels, Prospero's Children and The Dragon Charmer, Fern became aware of her magical powers and acquired a crew of mortal and supernatural allies. This time, an old, once-dead witch queen, Morgus, invades her home turf to seize control of the world and to take sadistic revenge against Fern, who now has to destroy an unkillable foe while protecting her friends. This may sound like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a U.K. accent, but Siegel does some distinctive, startling things with an apparently trivial form. For one thing, she writes in a quiet but uncommonly witty style that can soar into eloquence or mute into dread as needed. For another, she uses myth and legend in daringly eclectic ways, combining offhand but authoritative-sounding references to, say, Atlantis and King Arthur in the same breath. The author is particularly good at seeing past the action's surface to grapple with what really matters. In this case, as Fern realizes, the goal is not simply to defeat her rival. Morgus has dedicated herself utterly to mastering magical lore, so that in gaining power, she has also wound up grandly alone and insane. So how can Fern beat her without imitating her? How, in other words, can she avoid becoming the new witch queen? The answer is not only disturbing but also tough-mindedly convincing, leaving readers anxious for the next Fern Capel novel. (July 30)

Reviewed on: 07/15/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
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