First novel, decidedly in the horror vein, by screenwriter
Passarella, who carries off a series of familiar ploys with ease if
little originality. Purposely dowdy Wendy Ward, the daughter of the
president of Danfield College, is deep into witchcraft and works at
the local occult store in Windale, a town about 30 miles outside
the Ivy League aura of Boston and given up to witchy-named streets
and stores echoing its witch-burnings 300 years ago. Wendy, a
freshman, is supposed to be studying The House of Seven Gables,
which features a witch-burning, but she's after bigger fish. She
goes into the forest, strips naked, and reciting various occult
verses actually brings on a mild rain, and later on Halloween Eve
unwittingly unleashes a coven of real witches. Meanwhile,
eight-year-old Abbey MacNeil, bothered by knocks and creaks in the
night, finds herself witchnapped and strung up in a barn. Also
witchbait, unbeknownst to herself, is unmarried Professor Karen
Glazer, who teaches a seminar on "Proust, Joyce, Faulkner:
Architects of Memory," is pushing 40, pregnant, and, like Hester
Prynne, will not reveal the father (he's Paul Leeson, the handyman
who's fixing up her house). Then there's 18-year-old Jack Carter,
who goes for a country walk with his girlfriend only to be snatched
from the roof of a covered bridge by some kind of big . . . well,
flying something. Jack, in fact, found himself flying, then dropped
through a barn roof into what happens to be a feeding ground for
three witches. Soon there's an exploding cow and similar monstrous
events before Wendy finds herself face to face with extremely ugly,
vicious, seemingly unkillable nine-foot witches whose time has come
to occupy new bodies - namely, Abbey's, Wendy's, and Karen's
soon-to-be-born baby's. Never mention Hawthorne, Joyce, Proust, and
Faulkner when writing a fantasy lacking moral force or styled
prose. Unjaded younger readers, however, will find crushed eyeballs
and a certain evil scariness slapped like fresh meat onto the page.
Windale is a proud old American town that embraces its colonial heritage, including the legend of a witches' coven dating back 300 years. No one in Windale actually believes in witches, but three people are experiencing vivid nightmares; and an evil presence is working its way into their lives.
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