The Lost Child of Lychford

      Publisher: Tor 

      RRP: £11.57

      Author: Paul Cornell 

      Published:  2016-11-11




It’s December in the English village of Lychford – the first Christmas since an evil conglomerate tried to force open the borders between our world and...another. Which means it’s Lizzie’s first Christmas as Reverend of St Martin’s. Which means more stress, more expectation, more scrutiny by the congregation. Which means...well business as usual, really. Until the apparition of a small boy finds its way to Lizzie in the church. Is he a ghost? A vision? Something else? Whatever the truth, our trio of witches (they don’t approve of ‘coven’) are about to face their toughest battle, yet!

Merry Belated Christmas dear readers! Your reaction to that phrase is what this tale explores. Christmas can for many of us be a complicated time emotionally and leads to darker thoughts than simply, “Where did I leave the decorations last year?” In this slice of fantasy, Paul Cornell builds very nicely on his excellent Witches of Lychford tale and gives us a very tasty scary midwinter treat.

If you’ve not read the previous entry in this series of novellas you really should (it’s okay, I’ll be right here when you catch up). The Lychford series features a modern English village mixed with fairies and excellent characters (no really, hurry up and read it). Anyway in this story our trio have begun to settle in their role as the Witches of this small modern village that treads borders between many worlds.

Lizzie is about to have her first Christmas as the vicar of Lychford. This already stressful period for her did not need the addition of a haunting by a ghostly child. Very quickly her friends Autumn (who owns the local New Age shop) and Judith (the elderly witch who is guiding the two younger women) find that a wider plot is underway that both personally threatens them and may have dire impacts for the world itself.

What I really liked about this story is that Cornell has our leads caught in scenarios that illustrate the social horrors of Christmas. Lizzie battles both commercialism versus the meaning of Christmas and the pressure of being ‘on call’; both Autumn and Judith tackle the loneliness we can feel at Christmas, lacking both those we have lost and those we’ve yet to find. The supernatural elements amp up these existing threats; making them move from normal situations into areas where life and death are on the line.

The story has a sense of darkness running through it beyond the usual effects of the season. There is a larger battle being fought in the village, related to its many borders with other worlds. A seemingly simple wedding turns into something nastier and the situation is made more horrific by the incongruity of the words and actions; as a reader, you’re a helpless bystander to someone putting themselves into a very dangerous situation. That the tale also has so much humour means it’s not a gruelling read; the banter between the friends and their interactions is delicious. One Star Wars joke made me cackle!

The Lost Child of Lychford explores the darkness surrounding a group of friends and community; which is in many ways what our celebration of Christmas is about. If you fancy a belated (or very early) festive treat, I suggest picking this up soon.




Full disclosure: GeekPlanetOnline is the publisher and host of Paul Cornell's now-finished podcast, The Cornell Collective. Former GeekPlanetOnline Site Editor Dave Probert acted as that podcast's producer. The author of this review has no personal connection to Mr. Cornell.