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Beltane by Alys West

I was supposed to be writing this weekend, but I’ve been laid low with a chest infection and I’m feeling pretty wrung out with constant coughing and aches and pains. Abandoning all hopes of typing anything worthwhile, I decided to read instead. I thought I’d manage a few chapters and selected Beltane, the debut novel of Alys West. It’s set in Glastonbury, a town I adore, so the idea of it intrigued me from the start. Hours later, I turned off my Kindle, having finished the novel. It was so compelling that I couldn’t stop reading, and even felt bound to write a review, despite the concrete block on my chest! Yes, it was that good. There is, quite simply, nothing I didn’t like about this book.

From the very first page the reader is hurled into the story, with a shocking scene that really sets the tone for the whole book. A story of druidry, earth magic, paganism, witchcraft and spellworking, the plotline grips and enthrals, keeping you turning the pages, desperate to know what happens next. There are strong echoes of an almost-forgotten past, lost in a mist of mythology and legend, which isn’t surprising, given that the novel is set in modern day Glastonbury, a place where past and present collide and give the town a timeless aura.

Having visited Glastonbury on several occasions, and falling totally in love with the place, I could really picture the scene in my mind, but even those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the town in real life will be able to imagine it, with the help of the author’s beautifully written descriptions. The peace and majesty of the ruined abbey, the vibrant cafes and bustling streets, and the awe-inspiring and somewhat unsettling Tor are all brought to life within the pages of Beltane.

Strong plot, great setting and also fabulous characterisation – this book has it all. I adored Finn. What a hero he is, and it’s difficult not to fall for him. So difficult I didn’t bother trying! Zoe is a lovely heroine, and she shows a realistic and totally understandable bewilderment as the “normal” world she has always known tilts on its axis, and she struggles to believe in what she is seeing and hearing. The romance between the two of them is wonderful, and they certainly face a lot of unusual obstacles! Winston is intriguing, and I definitely want to know more about him. Since this is book one in the Spellworker Chronicles, I’m hoping we get to find out more about him and the work that he and Finn are involved in.

Beltane is a truly fabulous novel. It grabs you by the hand from the first paragraph and doesn’t let go, forcing you to run with it through menacing nightmares, evil magic, betrayals, terror, mystery, and tension, until finally it pulls you to a halt in a circle of standing stones and leaves you to face the final confrontation alongside Finn and his evil nemesis.

I loved this book and I would heartily recommend it. I really can’t wait to read the next novel in the series, so I hope I won’t be waiting too long. 5/5

You can buy Beltane here

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