By:Pat Ferrara
Review Date: Friday, March 21, 2008

Hailed as a “taut, sexy thriller” by Entertainment Weekly, Natasha Mostert’s 2007 Season of the Witch debuted on paperback earlier this month to steamy reviews. The contemporary fantasy tale weaves together hackers, witches and heady concepts of memory to divulge a murder mystery set in London, yet for all of its erotic buzz Season of the Witch just doesn’t have enough sensuality to seduce those expecting a full-blown paranormal romance novel.

Gabriel Blackstone is a young, successful computer hacker with a haunted past. Suave and intelligent, he’s got the detached nonchalance of an antihero and the steady cool of a play-by-your-own-rules rebel. Formerly a member of ‘Eyestorm,’ a secret agency that cultivates and tests remote viewers (people with clairvoyant powers), Gabriel now leads a carefree existence after failing to stop a preventable death years ago. Just when he thought he had put all that behind him though his old Eyestorm flame Frankie pops back into the picture, forcing him to confront not only his powers but his past as well.

Frankie’s new son-in-law Robert is missing. At her insistence Gabriel ‘slams the ride’ and accesses his clairvoyant skills to witness Robert’s bizarre final moments. Gabriel’s ensuing investigation leads him to Chelsea and two aristocratic sisters, Minnaloushe and Morrighan Monk. As he gets closer to these women his focus shifts from Robert’s murder to the allure of the sisters themselves. When the Monks discover Gabriel’s real motives behind their newfound friendship, however, not even his remote viewing powers may be enough to save him from two real life witches… especially when he’s falling in love with one of them.

From the very first page Natasha exhibits a flowing mastery of the English language. Her diction and word usage are chosen with unpretentious care, yielding vocabulary that’s descriptive and eloquent without being overly verbose. This, undoubtedly, is Witch’s greatest strength. The supernatural aura of the Monk sisters pervades the entire novel and lends the story a whimsically poetic tone. 

The book would be better off though if as much attention was paid to the story as to the narrative voice. The plot features a few disparate topics that, in this post-Da Vinci Code era, simply aren’t explored enough.

Backstory on the classical origins of witches is offered, but not connected thoroughly enough to make it all stick. The Art of Memory, Giordano Bruno and other suspected Memory Artists are all topics thrown out on the table, yet there isn’t enough information on them to bring the historically plausible aspect to fruition. And though Gabriel’s hacker background may provide the logic for some nifty plot devices, the character himself lacks the originality to move beyond familiar stereotypes.

Despite these flaws (and a surprising absence of gratuitous sex scenes) Natasha Mostert’s novel makes for one entertaining paranormal thriller. Will it please most paranormal romance fans? Maybe not. But that’s not saying Season of the Witch doesn’t have the power to charm.

Mania Grade: B-
Novel: Season of the Witch
Author: Natasha Mostert
Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 395
Price: $11.90