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      The Lost Child of Lychford

      Publisher: Tor 

      RRP: £9.99

      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!


Particularly satisfying.


This novella is a sequel to Paul Cornell’s 2015 tale, The Witches of Lychford. Set in a small village in the Cotswolds, this rural fantasy tale blends small town life with magical, fantastical elements and mystical threats. Once again, we join our three female protagonists; Lizzie, the town Reverend, Autumn, lifelong sceptic turned magic shop owner, and Judith, the elder witch/”town crank”.

We find Lizzie in the weeks preceding her first Advent and Christmas as Lychford’s minister, and still struggling to reconcile her faith with the magical events of the previous book. Once again, readers are given an interesting insight into the life of a small-town minister in their busiest period: arranging the various services and overseeing the nativity while getting on with the usual parish business of tending to her flock, with a scattering of weddings and other commitments thrown in. However, Lizzie finds herself struggling to connect with the magic of the season; a situation that many readers will find themselves empathising with, to be certain, but rather than trying to deal with it the Reverend feels the need to hide this from her flock and struggles on. Meanwhile, we find Autumn and Judith working together in the magic shop in a somewhat disharmonious fashion.

The magical events of this story begin when a ghostly apparition of a child begins to present itself to Lizzie, and each of our three protagonists finds herself subtly changed, manipulated by powers unknown in order to allow malign events to unfold. This is a particularly gripping element of the story, as we, the readers, can see that things are amiss with each character, while they are all so engrossed in their own experiences that they miss the signs in each other.

Once again, Lizzie is the character who feels the most vivid, and whose struggle it is the easiest to identify with, although all the character’s changes have parallels in everyday modern life. Autumn becomes fixated on a romance with a stranger, Judith becomes more of a recluse, and Lizzie becomes obsessed with the idea of damaging her hands in order to stop herself doing something bad. While these events have their routes in the magical this doesn’t stop them being easy for the reader to relate; infatuation and loneliness and isolation are common experiences, while Lizzie’s malady bears a striking resemblance to some forms of mental health issue, particularly Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Once again, this bite-sized piece of fiction can be devoured in a single setting, which feels particularly satisfying, and the three female leads stand out as well realised and varied characters rather than just “strong women”. This is an enjoyable episode in the unfolding story of Lychford’s resident witches and I look forward to the next instalment, A Long Day in Lychford, due Halloween 2017.




The Lost Child of Lychford has previously been reviewed at GeekPlanetOnline by Matthew Cavanagh.

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.