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The Great Witch of Brittany

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The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan is reviewed in the June 2022 issue of SFRevu.com. The review is exclusive to them until July 2022.  You may read the review using this link: <http://sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=19596>.
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Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’ve been obsessed with Louisa Morgan’s novels for a hot minute. When her novel “A Secret History of Witches” came out in 2017 I was absolutely enchanted by the story of family contained within its pages. 

So when I found out she was finally writing Ursule's story I almost fainted on the spot! From the first page I knew I was in for a wild ride, A 13 year old Ursule that despite her age speaks like an old woman is such a fun image in my minds eyes that sends me into fits of giggles… and the dynamic between her mother and herself reminded me a bit too much of my own mother.

To see such an enigmatic character fully fleshed out and given the book she deserves makes me extremely happy, and The Great Witch of Brittany doesn’t disappoint.
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Brittany 1741. Ursule is a woman who has long heard stories of ancestors with magical powers but has seen no proof in herself or her mother.

She seeks out answers and the ancestors come through to guide her. 

The book is Part of Morgan's Secret History of Witches series. Delicious
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After reading and enjoying A Secret History of Witches, I was excited to get an advanced copy of this book for more background on the Orchière clan. I did like Ursule's family story and the atmosphere created around the time period, but my reservation about this book is that it's a pretty bummer of a read. A lot of bad things happen and Ursule has a hard and demanding life. Nothing comes easy and we are there with her for each twist and turn. It took me about 40% into the book to get hooked and I did eventually get to the point where I went out of my way to find time to read it. If you like the previous books and don't mind that it's not an upbeat story I'd say give it a try.
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Ursule travels with her mother her gives fortunes, but her mother is not a witch.  Ursule finds she has the powers inherited from her ancestors.  There is much danger in being a witch, and Ursule and her mother find danger.

I was totally engrossed in this novel from the beginning and hated for the novel to end.  It is not something I would normally read, but it was not disappointing.  I look forward to reading more from this author.
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Another amazing book!  I have been a fan of Louisa Morgan since the very start.  It’s a rare gift to be able to tell story in such a way that binds you to the characters, makes you celebrate, cry, and feel along with them, and miss them when the book ends.  I automatically will buy and read any book this author writes, because I know that I will not regret it!  #JennReviews #NetGalley #LouisaMorgan #TheGreatWitchofBrittany
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Ursule Orchière has been raised on stories of the great witches of the past, but the witch line seems to have ended.  That is until Ursule comes of age and discovers she has the power of the ancient grimoire and the whispers of the past.  Ursule has to deal with the village people, the non-believers and threat of losing- her mother to the pyre. She must keep the secret hoping for the next generation.

I really enjoyed reading ‘The Great Witch of Brittany”. Excited to start “A Secret History of Witches”.
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Louisa Morgan’s The Secret History of witches is one of my favorite novels, so I was thrilled when I was approved for an arc of the new prequel, The Great Witch of Brittany and it more than lived up to my expectations. 

This is the story of Ursule Orchiere, the matriarch of a long line of women with magical abilities. There has not been a witch born to the Orchiere clan for generations and it is believed the strain of magic in their line has died out. But Ursule proves that to be a myth. However, it is not a time of rejoicing. In an age of witch hunters, Ursule is forced to hide her magic and  inhabit the shadows for fear her secret could destroy her.

I loved this book. The character of Ursule is portrayed vividly and realistically. The reader gets to experience the evolution of Ursule from a young and insecure your woman to a legendary and powerful witch.  

The deft touch of Morgan effectively combines historical fiction with light but believable fantasy elements in this multigenerational tale. You need not have read The Secret History of Witches to enjoy this book- it works effectively as a stand-alone. But once the reader experiences the beautiful storytelling in this novel I’m betting they will want to read all of Morgan’s other books. This is a book that entrances and bewitches you in a magical way that only great books do. I highly recommend this one!    Thank you to NetGalley and Redhook for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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4.5/5

Louisa Morgan's impeccable writing returns with The Great Witch of Brittany and the stories of the Orchiére women. After reading and enjoying A Secret History of Witches, I was so excited to get to experience the story of Ursule, grand-mére to girls in book one. Reading her story gave insight into how her life influenced the generations who came after her and the impact she left on everyone she met. Her magic was powerful, as was her heart, and those two traits passed along their line. It was wonderful seeing where and how so many things began.

TGWoB is beautiful and detailed, like seeing a painting in your mind as you read. And while the story isn't always happy (as lives of witches cannot always be), it is honest, touching, and undoubtedly magical.

Thank you NetGalley, Louisa Morgan, and Redhook Books for the ARC copy in exchange for my honest review!
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As always Louisa Morgan's writing was just so beautiful and comforting to read. I always pull out her books when I need a good witchy book! Although her last two books were great, I just didn't love them as much as I loved her first book "A secret History of Witches" however this one definitely met my expectations! The writing style and the magic just felt like coming home and I can't describe it any better than that. I think going into these books with as little information as possible and just going along for the magical journey is one of the best ways to experience Louisa Morgans books. But I will say that following Ursule Orchiere and getting to learn what has become of the Orchiere line of witches was just wonderful. I loved every single page! I am constantly asked for witchy historical fiction recommendations and i can guarantee this has moved to the top of my list. I think the original book is still my favourite but "The Great Witch of Brittany" is definitely in second place and I cannot wait to get my hands on a physical copy!

Thank you for this advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review
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Thank you, NetGalley, Louisa Morgan, and Redhook Books for the opportunity to read this book! It was released on February 15th, 2022!

“To be a reader, Ursule has always understood, was to be a rebel, to offend the traditional ways. To risk being isolated even more than she already was…”

THE GREAT WITCH OF BRITTANY
Louisa Morgan has done it again! The Great Witch of Brittany is connected to her first book, The Secret History of Witches-one of my all-time favorites! This book takes readers back to the Orchiere matriarch, Ursule. The book introduces Ursule as a young girl on the brink of womanhood. She is also Romani. The Romani are treated as less than human. Their culture is different and they are often painted as criminals. Ursule finds herself different from her clan. There are stories about the magic that runs in their blood but no one has seen it in generations, but the sacred stone and grimoire speak to Ursule. But magic always comes at a price. She does her best to honor the Goddess, her ancestors, and her family but superstition lies in every society, so she must take care as danger lurks everywhere.

“People are horrible, my girl, learn that early, and you’ll fare better in this world.”

THE GREAT WITCH OF BRITTANY
Trigger Warnings: racial slurs, misogyny, an attempt of rape, revolution, pregnancy trauma

Louisa Morgan is one of those writers who give so much to her characters. It is like readers can see into their souls. There is so much emotion and despite the book taking place in another time and infused with magic, the situations that these women endure are actually relatable. One of the main themes that are always present in her novels is the importance of family, specifically mother-daughter relationships. Like in The Secret History of Witches, Ursule and her daughter Leonie love each other dearly but don’t see eye to eye when it comes to family traditions. Ursule has to come to terms with the fact that Leonie turns her back to her Romani roots. Later, Leonie will learn what lengths a mother would go to protect her children.

Not only do Louisa Morgan’s characters have depth, but there is also the historical detail. First, there is the terror of the Witch Hunts. Women who did not conform to the beliefs and standards were often subjected to being accused of being a witch and burned for it. There are also the trials of the Romani. I loved learning about the Romani people! I was so thankful for all the resources that Louisa Morgan cited at the end of the book because I definitely plan to read more about them. Not many know about the racism and prejudice that the Romani faced. Towards the end of the book, we see a new terror arise and that is the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. All these events and moments come together and create an emotional and insightful setting.

Overall, Louisa Morgan can never disappoint me. This book is magical, just like all her other books! 5 out of 5 stars.
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In this prequel to A Secret History of Witches, you learn the origin story of Ursule Orchière and her discovery of magical abilities.  It begins in Brittany in 1762, where the Orchière clan believes the line is dead, because a witch hasn't been born to their clan for centuries.  Everything changes when Ursule comes of age and a spark of power flares to life.  Guided by an ancient grimoire and the whispers of her ancestors, Ursule is destined to walk the same path as the great witches she has grown up hearing stories about.  However, these new powers also mean that she is now in danger of the bloodthirsty mobs who want to burn all witches at the stake
I love this author's books, and so I was excited to revisit with the Orchière clan and learn about Ursule's origin story.  This book was so good, I did not want to put it down.  Once you have read this one, you will definitely want to go on and read A Secret History of Witches, if you haven't already read it.  If you are a fan of fanstasy fiction, then you are definitely going to want to read this fascinating book!
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One of the main themes of The Great Witch of Brittany is the stories of the foremothers that have been passed down through the generations. So it's fitting that this book feels exactly like one of those stories. As I finished The Great Witch, I felt like I had been gathered around a hearth and told the tale of Ursule Orchière as it had been told to generations before me.

The narrative voice of this book - the sense of sharing a legend - was both one of the book's greatest strengths and its main drawback. In terms of the good, the telling really added to the flavor of the story, hinting at things to come without spoiling, winking at the reader and making them feel like a part of the lineage privileged to hear this tale. Plus, the world of this book felt rich and lifelike, as much historical fiction as it was fantasy. I enjoyed the way French history played out in the background, occasionally touching Ursule and her family just as often as it passed them by. Even the details of her day-to-day activities came alive, with her farm chores having the same texture as her use of the Orchière crystal.

However, the tale-style narration meant that Ursule constantly felt like she was at arms's length from me as a reader. This ended up being a very plot-heavy book, with things constantly happening to and around Ursule, but rarely sharing her inner thoughts on the matter. We're shown hints of her emotions and her fears, but I never felt like I was able to truly get to know her. And more frustratingly, I never really felt like Ursule grew as a character. In a lot of ways, she remained the same girl we met in her caravan at 13 as she did at the end of her story. While watching her discover and grow into her power was definitely a delight, I couldn't help but want more from her as a main character.

All that said, this was still a very enjoyable read. I haven't read any of Louisa Morgan's other work, but I look forward to checking it out now so I can see how Ursule fits into the wider world of witches that Morgan has constructed.

4/5
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“The Great Witch of Brittany”                
 By: Louisa Morgan

Gypsies, Fortune Tellers, Witches, the Great Terror and the Holy Inquisition—"Ooh, la, la!”

Class struggles and discriminations have long been societal issues as history so well teaches.  

Louisa Morgan’s engaging new historical fantasy fiction, “The Great Witch of Brittany,” addresses many of these variations on the theme in a poignantly beautiful generational saga of French gypsy women, also known as “gitanes.”

This fast-paced story opens in the mid-1700s with fortune teller, Agnes, and her precocious little daughter, Ursule, members of the Romani Orchières clan, rovers and constant travelers in their horse-drawn caravan homes.  

Unknown to most, even some members of their own clan, Agnes and Ursule, are descended from a long line of powerful seers, sorceress and witches.  With special gifts of insight; abilities to crystal scry; powers to cast spells; and skills to create potions, these clever talents are passed down through the female line as long as it continues—with some daughters being more powerful than others

Along with their extended family, Agnes and Ursule frequently move from town to town throughout Brittany, in Northwest France, earning money performing entertainments for local villagers.
Because of their wandering nature and lifestyle, along with their darker skin tones and colorful, rakish clothing styles, when the gypsy clans pass through a community, the locals regard them suspiciously— considering them beggars and thieves.

Consequently, already considered outcasts, Agnes and Ursule—with their secret talents—are especially at risk during the uneasy days prior to the French Revolution when class tensions are peaking and the last days of the Holy Inquisition are still flaming.

“The Great Witch of Brittany” is a above all an epiphany of love and the sacrifices it often requires.

=====================///=======================

The Book Maven’s Journal—Reviews for Word Connoisseurs

REVIEWER:                J.Hunt         
STAR RATING            ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“The Great Witch of  Brittany”
Author:  Louisa Morgan                                                                                                             
Genre:   Historical Fiction   |     Sci Fi & Fantasy     |  
Publication Date:  15  February 2022                           
Publisher:    Redhook

With Sincerest Appreciation to NetGalley, Author Louisa Morgan and Publisher Redhook for Providing this Advance Reader’s Copy for Review.
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The nitty-gritty: Mesmerizing storytelling, history, and magic combine in this stellar multigenerational saga.

Back in 2017, I read my first Louisa Morgan book, A Secret History of Witches, and now with her latest, The Great Witch of Brittany, I feel as if I’ve come full circle. Brittany tells the story of Ursule Orchière, the character who dies at the beginning of A Secret History of Witches, and I adored reading about Ursule's long and eventful life. You could say this is a prequel to the earlier book, so if you haven’t read Louisa Morgan yet, might I suggest that The Great Witch of Brittany is the perfect place to start!

The story is a multigenerational, historical saga that takes place in Brittany, France and follows Ursule from 1763, when she’s thirteen years old, to the time of her death in 1821. Morgan splits up her story into four main parts, each set at a different time in Ursule’s life as she grows into her powers, gives birth to a daughter, and gets to see her family line continue though the years. In the first section, we meet Ursule and her mother Agnes, who live with a Romani traveling caravan. Agnes pretends to tell fortunes whenever they stop in a new town, but it turns out that Ursule is the one with true power, as she’s able to see visions of the future when she touches the family crystal that Agnes keeps carefully hidden. But it's a dangerous place and time to practice witchcraft, and Agnes is afraid that witch hunters will find them and burn them at the stake. When Ursule makes a grave mistake during a fortune telling session, the inevitable happens and the women are forced to flee for their lives.

The second part begins ten years later in 1773. Agnes and Ursule have found a safe place to live on Kerjean Farm and work as laborers for the owners, Madeleine and Remy. It is during these years that Ursule meets a blind musician and becomes pregnant with her only child, a daughter she names Léonie.

When the third section begins, Léonie is nine years old, and they have lived on the farm for so long that they’ve become part of the nearby community. Ursule wants her daughter to embrace the Romani faith and learn witchcraft one day, but Leonie wants nothing to do with her mother’s “gypsy ways” and gravitates towards the Catholic church, eventually meeting and marrying a boy in town. Ursule is hopeful that Léonie’s children will one day carry on the family traditions, and indeed she ends up giving birth to six daughters.

Finally, in the wake of tragedy, Ursule travels back to her old caravan with her six granddaughters in tow, and finds purpose in bringing happiness to the women and children she finds there, who are barely surviving with little food and no men to protect them after the French Revolution has taken its toll. By now an old woman, Ursule finds solace in the fact that her granddaughter Nanette, the youngest of Léonie’s children, has the gift just like she does, and will be able to continue the family traditions.

Interspersed between sections, we meet the “grand-mères,” the women who came before Ursule, who have reached mythological status and whose stories are passed from one generation to the next. I loved this sense of history and the fact that one grand-mère named Violca often speaks to Ursule and guides her in making difficult decisions. As in many stories involving magic, all spells have a price, and Ursule knows this even if she doesn’t always heed the warning.

I was not expecting this book to hit me so hard emotionally, but Morgan’s epic story of Ursule’s life was both beautiful and heartbreaking. At the heart of it is the wonderful relationship between Ursule and Agnes, which grows and changes over the years but always remains steadfast. Ursule never leaves her mother’s side. In fact they live together until Agnes’ death, their bond made even closer by a horrible event that takes place early in the story. Even though Agnes doesn't have the gift, she's nurtured Ursule’s talents and kept the crystal safe for years, ensuring that the Orchière line will always flourish. 

Other relationships were finely drawn as well. Ursule forms an unusual friendship with the owners of Kerjean Farm, Madeleine and Remy. Madeleine is a prickly woman who has never been able to bear children, but once Léonie is born, her personality softens. I never really liked her, but I felt sorry for her situation. Remy is a kind-hearted man who keeps to himself but is always looking out for Ursule and Agnes. But the best relationships, in my opinion, were the ones Ursule had with the animals on the farm. I can tell that Louisa Morgan is an animal person, because they play important roles in all her books. In this story we get to meet the dairy cows and goats that Ursule cares for, as well as a horse named Andie who lives a long life and ends up following Ursule from place to place. My favorite, though, was Drom, a raven with a touch of magic himself, who befriends a young Ursule and protects her throughout the years.

I also loved the historical aspects of the story, particularly the way women are portrayed. It’s not an easy time to be female. Girls are expected to marry as young as thirteen, only to spend the best years of their lives bearing children. They can also be trapped into marriage by being raped, and even Ursule has an uncomfortable brush with this particular horror (but don’t worry, she’s rescued before anything can happen). Ursule and Agnes spend their entire lives hiding their craft, fearful of being targeted as witches, which is sad because so much of the magic they do is for good. And while we’re on the subject, the witchcraft element is subtly done and doesn’t overwhelm the story, so even if you aren’t interested in speculative fiction, The Great Witch of Brittany reads more like a decades-spanning, historical family saga. And readers who appreciate stories that focus on strong female bonds and resourceful women characters will love any of Louisa Morgan’s books, I’m quite sure!

Morgan infuses her tale with so many emotional moments, especially in the last section of the book. I found myself in tears more than once, and as you might guess, a story that spans decades involves the inevitable death of beloved characters. It’s hard not to get emotional when you’ve become so invested in the characters, after all.

The author closes her story just before the beginning of A Secret History of Witches, and I have to say I’m tempted to go back and reread it, if only to stay in Louisa Morgan’s world just a little longer. I’ll be anxiously awaiting her next book!

Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.
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Thank you Net Galley and the publisher for providing me a free ARC in exchange for a honest review.

I have yet to read this series but I already bought the books to it, so I was exited to be able to read the prequel first. This book encompasses Ursule's life and how she became a great witch. Throughout the story Ursule is very concerned with making sure the magic is passed within her bloodline from generation to generation. The story goes into great detail about each stage of Ursule's life. Which at times was exiting but also sad. I feel like Ursule always helped others and never really helped or pushed for a better life for herself. Her biggest concern was making sure the magic did not fade away from her family and ensuring so she paid the price that the magic extracted from her. 

This read well written and very informative. At times the story was slow moving and there was never really any plot twists which I was hoping for and at times I did skim through the book to get to other parts of the book.
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Morgan wrote this book in response to reader requests for more about Ursule Orchière, the elderly matriarch from A Secret History of Witches. At the beginning of that novel, Grandmère Ursule used a tremendous feat of magic to protect her descendants from witch-hunters and point their way to a safer home across the sea. The Great Witch of Brittany is an expansive saga that should satisfy her fans’ expectations for a prequel and then some. Like the menhirs on the field where the Orchières rest their caravan, it also stands proudly on its own.

In 1763, in a Romani settlement outside Carnac-Ville in northwest France, Ursule is a plain, dark-eyed thirteen-year-old who assists her fortune-teller mother, Agnes. Although the Orchière women have a heritage of witchcraft, none among their large clan can work magic until Ursule’s latent abilities awaken during puberty. When Ursule unknowingly blurts out a hidden truth about a client, the situation turns dangerous, forcing Ursule to flee and leave the travelers’ life behind.

We know that Ursule will become a mother and grandmother, but not how that came about. Suffice it to say that in ensuring the continuation of her line, Ursule must weigh whether to use her knowledge of spells and tonics toward this purpose. Unsurprisingly, she also faces prejudice due to her skin color throughout her long life.

Aside from repercussions from the French Revolution, historical events don’t intrude much, although the scenes of pagan festivals and daily life in the pre-industrial Breton countryside are skillfully illustrated. The book spans nearly sixty years, and Ursule and her family comes to feel like old friends as she moves from maiden to mother to crone with guidance from her ancient grimoire, scrying stone, a raven familiar, and the voices of her predecessors. For fans of feminist historical fantasy, this tale of women’s stories, power, and mysteries will greatly appeal.

From the Historical Novels Review, Feb. 2022.
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I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Great Witch of Brittany is the second book in the world of A Secret History of Witches. It's been a minute since I read A Secret History of Witches, but that's ok! This book stands alone, and was better than the first. 

The Great Witch of Brittany spans the life of Ursule - from her adolescence helping her mother as a fortune teller, to her old age, protecting her family and clan. This was an epic book with love, loss, family, and more than a little magic.
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I read the first two books in this series and missed the third but saw this and new it was time to catch up.  The best part of this was having Ursule’s story being told.  I cherished every single word.  Strong women, one who was forced by circumstances into being even stronger at a young age, it tugs at your heart strings.  But the family ties and the way that Louisa Morgan weaves the tale makes this a magically beautiful read.

Having grown up being raised by my own grandmother, i felt for the youngest generation.  I also grew up going to visit my grandfather’s grave and the King and Queen of the gypsies were buried not far from his resting place.  Seeing them celebrating at the grave site for feasts was always a treat reading this brought back so  many memories of those days past.
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What a wonderful prequel to A Secret History of Witches! It was very satisfying to learn more about the Great Witch of the Orchiere family, Ursule. Readers got a glimpse of her in the very beginning of Secret History and it was clear that she was immensely powerful. Morgan has strengthened the family history of the Orchieres by telling the story of Ursule’s childhood, awakening to the stone, and the beginnings of her family. I was particularly taken with the idea that reading came naturally to Ursule - that it was some form of magic in itself. 

Morgan’s story is a superficial but still raw look at how women were treated in the past. Any woman who was different was always in danger of being branded a witch and burned at the stake. The cruelty and inhumanity was just astonishing. Ursule’s rescue of her mother from witch hunters was as thrilling as her near rape was revolting. 

This will appeal to fans of Alice Hoffman, Ami McKay, and Juliet Blackwell.
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