There isn’t much that’s new in paranormal fiction.
The most an author can hope to do is take a standard story
and make it their own with a new twist.
That’s exactly what Debora Geary did with her ‘A Modern
The premise of the books is fairly simple. It’s a family
full of witches – nothing new there – and they tend to get themselves in some
There’s sibling rivalry, family love, grouchy curmudgeons
and precocious kids around every single turn. There’s also wizened matriarch’s,
family struggles and an underlying fear that things just might not turn out okay after all.
No, there’s nothing new about that story.
What Geary does so well, though, is introduce a modern
twist: The computer world.
The Sullivan family – including older sister Nell, her
husband, Daniel and younger brother, Jamie – all run an online gaming community
called Realm. Normal people can play Realm, but they can’t get into higher
levels where actual magic is occurring.
The witches in this world use technology – they don’t shun
it. Nell’s daughter, Ginia, is a powerful
healing witch and gamer. She spends time in the real world making potions and healing poultices while infesting her "enemies" castles with pink bunnies in the online world.
Aervyn, is considered one of the most power wizards ever born – which causes
him to be coveted and feared at the same time. He can "port" himself all over the world, if he feels like it, which happens on a regular basis.
The essential premise of the first seven books in the series
(a new chapter is launching in September) was that Nell and her brother created
a “fetching” spell to find witches from across the world. The first witch they “fetch”
is Lauren – a mind witch.
Now, in a normal book, Lauren would have been paired with
Jamie in a romantic entanglement right away. What Geary does that is so smart
is think ahead. If you pair two of the most important characters in the series
together – there’s not as much to write about.
Instead, Jamie falls for Lauren’s best friend and Lauren’s
own path to romance is a little bumpier (but no less fun).
The great thing about these books is that it really
encompasses two witching communities – even though they’re part of the same
The initial family we’re introduced to lives in California.
They’re young parents and hip friends for the kids in the family. The other
group, the more staid group, lives in Nova Scotia – under the watchful eye of
The Nova Scotia witches have more celtic roots. They play on
the beach, they eat lobster stew, they love a good fiddle concert – and they’re
more in tune with their earth magic.
‘A Modern Witch’ ran the risk of being hokey – and there are
instances of some painful dialogue early on. Calling the kids “punk witchlings”
was like nails on a chalkboard in the first few books – and overused like you wouldn’t
believe. Thankfully, Geary seems to be weeding that word out of her writing.
Quite frankly, the world Geary has created is rich, warm and
filled with love. It’s not a perfect world, though.
A lot of indie writers make the same basic mistake: They’re
obsessed with making their characters likeable for their readers so they make them
perfect. Terri Reid would be an example of an author that does that.
Geary does make her characters likeable -- but she’s not
afraid to make them do the wrong thing
occasionally. For example, when Nell
tries to train a witch with Asperger’s Syndrome, she finds herself pulling away
from the woman because of her problem.
Nell acknowledges that what she’s doing is wrong, but she
still does it.
Of course, it’s a book, so Nell gets over her reticence at
some point – but it’s not a blink and you’ll miss it problem.
Geary’s characters are white-washed – I’m not going to lie –
but it’s not to a freaky point. There are also great moments of family bonding
and love – and a great deal of witchling mischief – that flood this world with
a life that’s hard to capture on the written page.
I do have one problem with this series. In one of the books,
a 48-year-old man is given an orphan child out of the blue and no one thinks it’s
a bad idea – or that they might want to call the authorities and mention a
strange child just appeared out of nowhere.
Now, I understand this is a paranormal series, but that’s
really out there to me. If the child had been a relative of this man, maybe I could
have gotten behind it, but I’m still creeped out by that aspect of the books.
It’s a minor quibble, though.
Also, this is an indie, and there are a few typos in each
book – but they’re fairly few and far between. They certainly don’t detract
from the stories.
I’m not sure where Geary is taking her world – but I am sure
I want to follow her on the ride.
The ‘A Modern Witch’ series have varying price points in
print but are generally $3.99