The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke // perfect book for spooky season @BerkleyPub
The Lighthouse Witches was original, magical and dark mystery with Gothic vibe and sci-fi and paranormal element made it perfect book book for spooky season.
The Lighthouse Witches by C .J. Cooke
Publication Date : October 5, 2021
Publisher : Berkley
Genre : Mystery / Thriller
Pages : 432
Disclaimer : I received eARC from the publisher as part of blog tour, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to publisher and NetGalley.
This post contains affiliate links.
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 was tense and dark mystery with sci-fi and paranormal element that revolved around Nordic folklore and mystery of missing Stay family. The story was about folklore, myth, superstitions, history of witch hunt, family drama, trauma, misplaced beliefs, guilt, regrets, and forgiveness.
Writing was amazingly vivid, engaging, dark, and intense. This was written in third person narrative from Liv, Luna, and Sapphire’s perspective; told in three timelines- 1998, 1662, and 2021. Setting of Scottish island, Lon Haven, was atmospheric and my favorite part of the book among other aspects.
Plot was original and perfectly written. That synopsis is well written but I recommend to go into book without knowing much. It started with character introduction, how Liv (Olive) Stay got commission to paint mural in hundered years old lighthouse and dragged her three daughters- Sapphire (15), Luna( 9) , Clover( 7)- over to spooky, remote island with its terrible history; twenty years later with present chapters from Luna’s perspective telling about her trauma of her missing family, not remembering what exactly happened to her and her family, and how all of sudden Luna got call from police about finding her youngest sister, Clover, that forced confront her past and revisit place she avoided all her life.
It was suspenseful from the very beginning. I was curious to know why Liv dragged her daughters to a place and job she didn’t know much about, what happened to whole family, how they went missing, were Luna’s memory of her mother trying to hurt her was true, did Liv truly abandoned her, how Clover was found suddenly, why twenty years later she was still a child of same age she went missing, and what narrative from 1662 has to do with all that. It was fascinating to get answers to all questions I had as story progressed.
All characters were flawed and so very interesting. There were many characters in book with its three timeline but it never confused me, nor I had to keep list. It was easy to remember who was who and from which timeline. Most were unlikable and still some made me feel sad for them even though they did terrible things. Luna,and Liv were my most favorite characters.
As mother, I could feel for Liv. It was easy to empathize with her throughout the book. I could see how hard it might be for her as single mother of three kids (one of whom was headstrong and literally hated her), how difficult it must be provide for her daughters with no support or permanent home. As I got to know why she dragged her daughters to a remote island, I wanted to shake her hard and at the same time hug her and could understand why she felt escape and distraction was best path. I was happy for her when she finally met someone who loved her and she could share that secret with him, but of course it has to be short lived. It was tragic, devastating and sad to see her going through missing daughters that muddled her mind and everything that happened. I admired her conscience, her gut feeling, and believing in it. She was not perfect mother, hardship of single mother made her inattentive towards her kids. she regretted sometimes having kid so early and yet I loved how much she loved them all and wouldn’t want to change any of it.
Sapphire (Saffy) wasn’t likable. She was typical teenager. She headstrong, rebellious, hated her mother, rude to her sisters, wanted to escape family. I get why she didn’t like her mother but I think the reason wasn’t enough to hate her mother. She lacked compassion, understanding, responsibility of being eldest kid. She wanted attention from her mother and others and done foolish things to get it that affected whole family. It was hard to feel sorry for her but I could see how young she was who needed a therapist for depression and grief of losing Clover and Luna’s father. It was amazing the way she realized her mistakes.
Clover was kid and just like kids are, she was unpredictable. She wasn’t much in focus in 1998 timeline but in 2021 this kid’s actions were spooky. I could see why Luna almost believed in folklore after that. She scared more than whole witch hunt timeline.
Luna was compassionate, emotionally present, and lovely kid who loved her mother and sisters, even Saffy. As adult I liked her protective nature towards her unborn child. I’m still not sure why she refused to marry Ethan even though she loved him, it must be her unconscious feeling, a wish to fill the gap in her memory, trauma her childhood left, or abandonment issue she might be still struggling. Her reaction and action to meeting Clover again but still 7 yrs old and what Clover did after meeting Luna was genuine. I could understand her fear and confusion towards things she couldn’t understand. Even with all that happened, her vulnerability, she was determined, brave and strong woman. I admired how she had courage to return to place that took away so much and confronted past to solve the mystery of her missing sister and mother and to know what happened to Clover and herself when she was kid.
Setting of Lon Haven and everything related to it was best part of the book. It was horrifying to read its tragic and terrible history, what happened in 1662, how they tortured and burned women at lighthouse, curse of witches and how it connected all timelines and folklore, Iceland mythology, Nordic Folklore of Wildling, how and why even after centuries people believed in folklore, curse, magic, and superstitions. Everything was revealed gradually keeping readers hooked till the end. It was amazing how author portrayed human being, how people react in fear specially when loved ones are involved, desperation, loneliness, trauma, paranoia, misplaced beliefs, grief, misogyny, and history of witch hunt.
Twist and turns were great. I couldn’t guess where story was going even though it was obvious from the beginning bad things happened to whole Stay family. I couldn’t guess how it all happened and how all three timelines connected. It was easy to figure about whole ‘Wildling’ thing and I was curious to see when characters would realize that. Climax was interesting. For a second, I feared for Clover and Luna. I couldn’t guess the end. Even with all horrible things happened, the end was perfect and uplifting. I liked how theory about Wildling was explained at the end.
Overall, The Lighthouse Witches was dark, intense, atmospheric, chilling and engaging mystery with Gothic vibe and sci-fi and paranormal element made it perfect for Halloween read.
I highly recommend this if you love,
witch hunt books
magic and curses
Icelandic myths and Nordic folklore
atmospheric Scottish setting
Dark and layered plot
multiple timeline and POV
flawed and interesting characters
spooky and chilling story
C. J. Cooke is an award-winning poet and novelist published in twenty-three languages. She teaches creative writing at the University of Glasgow, where she also researches the impact of motherhood on women’s writing and creative writing interventions for mental health.
Drawing on history, Cooke drew inspiration for THE LIGHTOUSE WITCHES from the little-known history of Scotland’s witch trials. Cooke said in an interview with Crime by the Book that “there was a witch trial 20 minutes from my home and there’s barely any commemoration for the women who were murdered. Four thousand people–mostly women–tortured and murdered, their names and memories tainted forever…It fascinates and disturbs me, because four hundred years later we still use the term ‘witch’ to slander women.”
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Wonderful review Yesha. I also loved this one, even though this genre is out of my comfort zone. It is definitely hard to pinpoint a genre for this one.
Books Teacup and Reviews
Yes, it had elements of paranormal because of curse, and sci-fi with that revealtion at the end but mainly it was a mystery-thriller. It was perfect for spooky month.
Lashaan Balasingam @ Bookidote
This sounds really good! I haven’t heard about a Nordic centric crime thriller before like this one! Thanks for sharing. Glad you loved this one so much, Yesha! 😀
Books Teacup and Reviews
Thank you, Lashaan! I haven’t read anything like before. It was interesting mix of thriller, paranormal and sci-fi.
I love the sound of this one especially that is has SciFy aspects. Definitely my kind of story ❤️. Excellent review!