I’ve always felt that WalMart was the devil, I just always meant it figuratively. In veteran comic and screenwriter Paul Cornell’s new novella, however, it is the literal truth.
Witches of Lychford, part of Tor.com’s new novella series, follows a trio of women living in Lychford, a small town nestled in the Cotswolds in Central England — Judith, an elderly occultist and town crank; Lizzie, the town vicar; and Autumn, Lizzie’s childhood friend who now runs a New Age gift shop. The three get wrapped up in paranormal politics as the town debates the impending construction of a new Sovo grocery megastore.
Meanwhile, Sovo has sent the mysterious David Cummings to secure the property by any means necessary. His large donation to Lizzie’s church hints at the source of Sovo’s power.
Because it turns out that the store won’t just destroy the local economy, but also the world. Lychford sits on the boundaries of multiple worlds — like the Summerlands of the fae, and Hell itself. The construction will tear down the fragile barriers between the worlds, allowing creatures to travel between the worlds without restriction.
Hell REALLY wants the megastore to be built.
In addition to its scathing condemnation of Tory economic policy (it’s no coincidence that Cummings shares initials with current British Prime Minister David Cameron) and the death of small business, Witches of Lychford is a brisk examination of faith, loss and how one deals with death. Each of the three women are scarred in one way or another, Judith burdened with caring for a sick husband who no longer loves her, Autumn reliving memories of an otherworldly encounter and Lizzie simply losing faith in God.
But Cornell tempers the message with a healthy dose of genteel humor, poking fun at British life while celebrating it at the same time.
Witches of Lychford hits all the notes I love in fantasy — it’s charming, funny and contemporary while still maintaining an otherworldly sense of wonder. There is a lot of pain in Witches of Lychford, but there is plenty of hope as well.
This was a wonderful introduction to Cornell, who is best known for his Dr. Who tie-ins, and a great way to kick-off to a new series.