Big Box Stores Are Literally the Devil in Paul Cornell’s Novella, “Witches of Lychford”

lychfordWitches of Lychford
Paul Cornell
★★★★, 2015.

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’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.

—Michael Senft

Buy Witches of Lychford.

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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3 Responses to Big Box Stores Are Literally the Devil in Paul Cornell’s Novella, “Witches of Lychford”

  1. Looks like these novellas have been a big hit! I have Envy of Angels on my TBR for next week.


    • I’m struggling with Kai Ashante Wilson’s, but I’m looking forward to The Builders and the KJ Parker. Once I get over the Sanderson/Leckie hump I should be able to dive into them a bit more.


      • I didn’t want to say anything, but Sorcerer in the Widleeps is the only one I haven’t heard good things about :/ But one out the first five isn’t bad.

        I like the idea of the memory transfer thing in The Last Witness, and The Builders is the one I’m looking most forward too.


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