When Tudor witch Meg Lytton receives an unexpected legacyher mother's magical wand, ring and spellbookshe has no idea her future happiness is in danger. For the witchfinder Marcus Dent is back in her dreams, and he will use any weapon to gain her newfound powers for himself.
Now Meg must discover the secret of Invictusher mother's magical ring. Summoned back to Hatfield, she knows a battle is coming. But Meg is no longer alone in her struggle against Dent. Surrounded by her friends, she faces her greatest challenge head-on: losing Alejandro, her beloved. For it seems the Spanish novice has been keeping secrets from them all.
Powers clash and hearts break in the spellbinding third book of The Tudor Witch Trilogy
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Lytton Park, Oxfordshire
Slowly I obeyed, shuffling round on bare feet. The fire had burnt low and I could see only the faintest glimmer of light through the blindfold. But the spell was familiar to me from my training as a witch.
Set four candles about the summoning circle. Four black candles for the four points of the compass.
I shivered, for despite the chill December evening I wore nothing but a simple shift. Yet I was too excited to notice the cold, my heart beating hard, my fingertips already tingling with power.
Pungent smells filled my narrow, low-ceilinged bedchamber: myrrh, juniper berries, scorched yew, and a sickly scent I did not recognize. The preparations were almost complete.
The spirits may be conjured by bell and black candle, and by the burning of churchyard yew and crow's feather.
I ought to have been afraid.
The last time I had tried this spell, I had almost destroyed everything in my world. My mistress, the Lady Elizabeth, sister to Queen Mary, had insisted on seeking advice from her dead mother, Anne Boleyn. I had managed to conjure the executed Queen's spirit, but the timing of the spell had not been auspicious. Something else had come through with her from the underworld: a cruel, dark spirit, which had threatened not only our lives with its malice, but also the whole of England.
Tonight, though, my friend Richard would be my guide, to lessen the chances of our spell going wrong again.
Besides, this time I was summoning up a spirit for my own reasons. My mistress had banished me from Hatfield House, on the advice of her old governess, Kat Ashley. The Queen had reluctantly dropped the charge of treason against her younger sister, but Elizabeth was still out of favour, and now convinced that the presence of a witch in her householdhowever secretwould get her arrested again. I was back with my father at our family home in Oxfordshire, but I felt certain my destiny would lead me back to the Lady Elizabeth in the future. And to stand against my enemies, to learn best how to use my powers, I needed helpa magickal help that could only come from the world of the spirits.
"Take two steps forward. Enough. You are now almost at the edge of the circle." I heard the rustle of his conjuror's robe as he rose from his knees behind me. "Wait for my word."
The bare flesh on my arms grew goose-pimpled as I waited, and not just from the cold.
I had no doubt that this summoning would succeed. Richard was apprentice to Master John Dee, the Queen's astrologer, a man famed as a conjuror and magician, and had learned the craft from his master. But this was still a dangerous spell.
Richard struck the bell three times with his athame, then raised his voice. "Hear us, spirit winds of the north! We ask that you heed our call, by the power of fire, and by the power of sacrifice."
He paused, and I guessed he must be pouring a dollop of thick, dark blood from the altar cup into his palm. "And by the power of this blood."
His wet finger brushed first my forehead and chin, then stroked from one cheek to the other, completing the sign of the cross in blood.
"May the stars look kindly on our enterprise," Richard continued in a ringing voice. "May the dead hear us and obey. By the sacred time, by the dark of the moon, by these spells and this circle, I ask that the spirit be subdued to our will and appear before us."
A thrill ran through me as Dee's apprentice turned away, beginning to chant the ninefold charm. My breathing shallow, I struggled to contain my excitement as the spell came to completion. From behind my blindfold I caught a brief flickerthe candles all dipping togetherthen the room grew abruptly cold, as though the spirits were approaching.
I lifted my arms in an age-old gesture of welcome, waiting for Richard to finish.
At last he leaned close to my ear, and his breath scorched my cheek. "Call her," he whispered, and I opened my mouth to obey.
But at that moment I felt a chill draught on my bare feet, then heard Richard growl under his breath in frustration.
"What do you want, Spaniard?" he demanded. "This is no place for you."
Impatiently I tore at my blindfold.
Alejandro stood framed in the doorway, his face dark with tension, raising a lantern to illuminate the room.
"What are you doing up here, Meg?" Alejandro stared first at me, then the magickal paraphernalia scattered about the chalk-drawn circle. His gaze flicked to the young man by my side. To the long shift I woreperhaps a little scanty to be wearing when alone with another man. "And with him?"
Oh, Alejandro. What a pest you are, I thought. Yet my heart flooded with tenderness at the sight of him. My Spanish betrothed, so passionate and intense: dark-haired, dark-eyed, graceful as a dancer, both on foot and on horseback. He was strong too, muscular and broad-shouldered, skilled with a long sword, a born soldier. And glaring at Dee's apprentice with undisguised jealousy as though he intended to draw that dagger at his belt and use it.
There was no doubt in my heart that Alejandro loved me, nor that I loved him. Whether we could spend our lives together was less certain. The military priesthood he still hoped to join might permit their priests to marry, but I was convinced his masters would not extend that courtesy to a witch.
But he had still risked disrupting this spell, and I could not help my flicker of irritation.
"Working a spell," I told him, "as you can plainly see. Why have you interrupted us?"
Alejandro set his lantern on the table and looked at me broodingly. "What manner of spell?"
He only wants to protect me, I reminded myself, counting slowly to ten before answering.
Richard put a hand on my arm as I drew breath. "Wait," he said urgently. "Don't tell the priest. It's too dangerous."
"Keep out of this, boy," Alejandro snarled, though in fact the two young men were about the same age. Richard was a head shorter though, and lean as a greyhound, so he always appeared younger. And I could see from Richard's tightening expression how much that jibe irked him. But he should not have called Alejandro "priest," when he knew perfectly well that he was still only a novice.
I held up a hand, silencing them. "I am attempting to conjure the spirit of my mother, Catherine Canley, and speak with her."
Alejandro stared from me to Richard. "Are you mad? Or have you forgotten what happened when you summoned Anne Boleyn? You conjured a creature out of Hell along with the dead Queen."
"I have not forgotten. This time will be different."
"Why?" he demanded, his dark brows twitching together in disbelief. "Because you have Master Dee's errand boy at your side?"
I saw the love and concern in Alejandro's tortured face, and longed to smooth away his frown. But he was right, at least in part. The spell was dangerous, and possibly foolhardy. But we had to try. There were still questions I needed to answer, not just about my enemy Marcus Dent, but about myself and the extent of my own power.
"John Dee himself was unable to lay that malevolent spirit to rest," he continued, watching me closely. "It nearly led to your death, Meg! Do you seriously believe his apprentice will know what to do if a demon comes out of the void instead of your mother's ghost?"
"You don't understand, Alejandro. There are things my mother may be able to tell us," I muttered, folding my arms tightly across my chest. "Important things."
Much as I loved him, I did not like my betrothed interfering with my magick. He did not understand how much it meant to me.
And how could he understand? He had grown up wishing to enter the Catholic priesthood, while at the same time I had been training to be a witch. He was Spanish, I was English. We were complete opposites.
But we had one thing in common. Alejandro never gave up easily either.
"Promise me you will wait until Master Dee can come in person and work the spell for you. If you must raise your mother's spirit, I would trust the conjuror before his apprentice to keep you safe."
Richard snarled, "My master works for Bishop Bonner in London now, as well you know. He cannot be spared from his work."
"His work?" Alejandro threw back at him. "Is that what you call it, sniffing out heretics for the bonfire?"
"Master Dee had no choice but to accept Bonner's invitation to work for him. Even the Lady Elizabeth agreed that he must, for it was either that or lose his own life." Richard was openly hostile now, as ready for a fight as Alejandro. "And he may sniff them out, but it is the Spanish Inquisition, your unholy Catholic priests, who light the bonfires under them."
For a moment there was silence, both of them glaring at each other. Then Alejandro turned his head to look at me. His gaze moved over my face, no doubt noting the dried streaks of blood. His mouth tightened.
"You insist on continuing with this spell, mi querida?"
"Yes," I said uncomfortably.
His eyes flickered hotly, but to my surprise he did not continue to argue. "You are a stubborn wretch, Meg Lytton, you know that?" His voice grew husky, his Spanish accent very pronounced. "Muy bien, if I cannot persuade you to stop, then I shall stay and keep guard over you myself." To my dismay, he closed the door and stood in front of it, crossing his arms. "Proceed."
Richard and I exchanged wry glances. This was not exactly how we had planned the spell to go.
"Oh, very well." I knew it would be impossible to shift him.
"Unless you wish to stop, Richard, and try again another night?"
"What, and miss the best alignment of planets?"
Impatiently Richard gestured me to step back into place, then replaced the blindfold so that I was once more in darkness. "The circle has not been broken. We shall continue." His voice grew curt.
"Extinguish that lantern, priest. And do not interrupt us again, whatever you may see or hear."
Blindfolded, I listened to Richard's rhythmic chanting as he slipped back through the ninefold charm, weaving it about the circle once more.
At first I was very much aware of Alejandro in the room, but then my witch's mind settled into the melodic words and actions of the spell, and I began to sway to their dancelike rhythm, my fingers once more tingling with power. It was like falling into a dream, except that all my senses were on fire at the same time, conscious of everything around me, the creaks and shifts of the old house where I had been born and grew up, birds calling to each other outside in the gathering dusk, the thin whistle of wind under the eaves
"Call her," Richard whispered in my ear, just as he had done before our spell was interrupted.
"Let the curtain be parted twixt life and death!" I lifted my arms in welcome. "O spirits of the departed, hear me! Catherine Canley, hear me! I who am thy daughter call thee out from the shades of the other world. Come, spirit of my mother, and stand before thy living flesh and blood."
The room grew chill and my voice faltered, forgetting the words Richard had taught me.
It was hard not to recall the last time I had summoned the spirit of the dead in this way. Inexperienced in the ways of dark magick, I had dared to call forth the Princess Elizabeth's executed mother, Anne Boleyn, and she had come to us in the darkness at Hampton Court, a silvery floating lady with sad eyes. But then a terrible storm had descended upon the circle, whipping violently at us, threatening to tear apart the palace brick by brick, the wind howling in our faces
My senses were suddenly assailed by the powerful scent of burning rosemary; Richard kneeling behind me within the safety of the circle, chanting under his breath, had scorched the dry sprig in the candle flame.
I staggered slightly under a sense of weight, and heard Alejandro draw a sharp breath.
"She is here," Richard breathed.
I had known before he spoke, my flesh goose-pimpled with cold once more, my heart beating thunderously in the silence. There was indeed a presence in the room with us, and it was watching me. The tiny hairs lifted on the back of my neck and my scalp tingled. It was like smelling smoke on a dry afternoon, but not knowing from which direction it came.
"Madre di Dios," Alejandro muttered, and I guessed he must be making the sign of the cross.
Triumph licked like fire along my veins. I dragged off my blindfold and glanced about, my eyes adjusting to the glimmer of candlelight.
I had been prepared for fear. Perhaps even terror. My mother had been a powerful witch, my aunt had often told me that, and to summon such a spirit was always dangerous, even for her own child.
What I had not expected was to feel overwhelmed by love.
My mother had died when I was a young child, and I had little memory of her alive. A haunting scent, laughing blue eyes and a pair of warm enveloping arms about me, that was all I could remember. Catherine Canley had always been just a name to me, a myth, a ghost from my past. Yet here she was before us, a beautiful woman with long fair hair and the same striking blue eyes I remembered.
She floated just beyond the reach of my arms, watching me intently. I had been warned not to look too deeply into the eyes of the dead, and knew not to touch any part of the apparition. But indeed it was hard not to stare, for her face was my own. It was like looking into a mirror.
"M-Mother," I stammered. "Catherine Canley."
The ghost of my mother drifted closer, stretching out slender arms, but stopped just short of the circle.
"Meg, my dearest child." Her voice, like that of the dead Queen Anne, was as dry as the rustle of leaves on the wind. But her clear eyes held a warning. "Do not touch me. Or you too will be drawn into the land of the dead."
I nodded, my eyes filling with tears. My mother was so beautiful and ethereal, her skin as pale as marble, even her lips, parting now in a smile. It was so cruel that we had been parted when I had been only five years old. She could have taught me so much
"My sister, Jane, taught you all you needed to know," my mother said softly, reading my thoughts as though I had spoken them aloud.
"Do not grieve for me, Meg. It was my time to leave this earth. And your time will come too. But not yet. And not until you have accomplished those deeds which you are destined to do."
It was hard to know if she was speaking aloud or inside my head, nor even if the other two in the room could hear her. I was entranced by the rustling whisper of her voice and could not seem to tear my gaze from hers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Romantic and thrilling, Witchrise was a good conclusion to the Tudor Witch trilogy. I wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be, but it did a nice job of wrapping everything up. So, while I was a little disappointed, I did like it overall. All the characters were still great in this book. Meg was still just as strong, willful, and independent as ever. She was determined to take don Marcus Dent and do what was best for herself. When she realized the full extent of her powers, she was definitely a force to be reckoned with. I already liked her before and I still like her now. Alejandro was still adorably sweet and devoted to Meg. He put her safety above all else, even when she was rejecting him. He was loyal, clever, and just all around wonderful and I adored him. We get to see more of Richard in this book. He was smart, though still prone to brooding, and loyal to Meg despite being heart-broken about her. Honestly, I felt really bad for the guy. He really did love Meg and he was a good guy. I thought he was great. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** I really wasn't happy with romance. While I liked the intensity between them and how they were both so loyal to each other, there were some things about it that I didn't like. For one, most of the romance in the book was Meg thinking "I love him so much but I can't marry him because I would have to give up my magic." Over and over and over again. It got SO repetitive. And, Alejandro never asked her to give up her magic. It was just assumed that practicing magic as a nobleman's wife would have been too dangerous. But, he never asked that of her because he loved her too much to force her into giving up something she loved. But, what really bothered me was how it was all resolved. Even after Meg had rejected his proposal and refused to continue their relationship, he went back to Spain and gave up everything because, to him, it wasn't worth anything without Meg. I'm not saying that Meg should have given up magic because I know it was important to her and I didn't think she should have given it up. But it just seemed unfair that Alejandro didn't think twice about giving up his titles, land, and wealth even when he couldn't be with Meg, just because it wasn't worth as much to him as the woman he loved. Meanwhile, Meg didn't consider giving up magic for one second. In the end, Alejandro gave up his place in the Holy Order, all his titles and wealth, and leaves behind his family and his home for her, while Meg never considered doing the same. Again, I'm not saying that I wanted her to, I'm just saying that it turned out to be unfair to Alejandro. I think a relationship should always be equal in how much each person compromises and this one wasn't. One last thing about the romance. I really didn't like how Meg allowed Richard to kiss her 3 times and told him that she wished she had fallen in love with him instead of Alejandro, while Alejandro was sitting in another room, brokenhearted because Meg had rejected him. That was just really badly done of her, both in regards to Alejandro and Richard, and it made me upset with her. ***END SPOILERS*** Despite my issue with the romance, I still enjoyed the story. It was fast paced and kept me interesting. I was a bit underwhelmed with how the issue of Marcus Dent was resolved, as well as annoyed that Elizabeth and her other servants never gave Meg any credit for basically saving everyone from the psycho. But, I still liked the story and, in the end, all the loose ends were tied. Though this wasn't quite what I was hoping it would be, I still thought it was a good conclusion. Witchrise was an enjoyable YA read and a nice tie up to the series. While I didn't love it, I still liked it. I'm not sure what other fans of the series will think, but it was, most importantly, a satisfying conclusion. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review