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The Great Witch of Brittany

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Member Reviews

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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I got into Morgan as a writer hoping she would be kind of a witchy Mistress in the Art of Death vein, and while it's an easier read, it's still generally really fun. All that said, I didn't really get as drawn into the book as I wanted, and it had trouble keeping my focus. I see why people really have been loving this book, and I think it'll be an easy recommendation, even if it wasn't quite up my alley.
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Thank you so much to NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book!

I absolutely love Louisa Morgan and am so happy I got to read this book! We start with Ursule and Agnes and follow their journey as Ursule revives her family's magic. I loved A Secret History of Witches and this book lived up to my expectations. At times my heart broke for Ursule and Agnes and all they went through but the ending was so beautiful. Morgan's prose transports the readers back to life in rural Brittany during the tumultuous era of the French Revolution. Louisa Morgan has a way with magical historical fiction and has become an auto-buy author for me.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Redhook Books for the ARC of The Great Witch of Brittany.

I have not previously read any of Louisa Morgan's books but I have seen them around. I figured I'd be okay starting with this book as it's a prequel to the rest of her Witch series. I found this book to be an entertaining and easy read, for the most part, but I think it was lacking a lot of character background and motivations to make it a truly great read. I enjoyed that it was a female-driven story and I enjoyed that the main character's motivations were (mostly) not driven by the desire of a man. I found the writing style to be easygoing and simple (in a nice way).

But, the characters are very surface-level and we don't get to know most too well, aside from the main character Ursule. But even with Ursule, many of her motivations and reasonings are not explained - they are just the way they are. Especially surrounding her powers and witchcraft, there is little to no explanation about how any of it works, or why it works the way it does. It just kind of exists. I didn't feel connected to the characters, so I didn't feel for them in certain parts of the story when I probably should've. I found myself wondering a lot of the time why certain characters acted the way they did and I really feel that this lack of reasoning and understanding diminished the quality of the book.
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Overall, I thought this was a good book, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I might not be the target audience. However, I still enjoyed bits and pieces of it and thought parts of the story were interesting but it didn’t draw me in. The flow of the book was a little staggering and I think the time jumps between Ursule’s life might have played a role in that. I liked the fact that this spanned over Ursule’s lifetime but I felt a disconnect when time jumped. Not all the time, but for the majority of the book. Based on the description it wasn't the type of book I was expecting (I think due to the writing style), but again there were key elements of the story that I throughly enjoyed. I just thought it was slow, so it took me a while to finish.

I really liked the relationship between Ursule and her mother, the relationships she forms throughout her life, and how not everything is perfect in Ursule’s life. There are real elements to the history side of things, the relationships that you can connect with, and the fact that life can be hard, with any obstacle thrown your way. 

I have not read any other books by Louisa Morgan and didn’t know that it was connected to her other books until after I read it. You do not have to read the other books to understand this story. It is its own piece. 

I received an eARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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Louisa Morgan has a beautiful way with words and of historical witchy things. As I read the story of Ursule Orchiere, I found it beautiful and incredibly descriptive. I felt that the timing and the environment in which was described around Ursule was very realistic and made the reader feel as though they were there with Ursule throughout her journey. I was enthralled by her early years with the caravan and as each "Book" proceeded, it blended beautifully with Ursule and the prior ancestresses before her and after. As Ursule discovers more and more about her craft and the powers within, it is an exciting yet cautionary time as being perceived as a witch in the time and setting is very dangerous. It certainly kept the momentum of the book and helped the reader understand all that was at stake. It was a beautiful read.
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Let me first say that this book can be read and appreciated without having read A Secret History of Witches. Secondly, this is not a fast paced book. It is however a sumptuous read that must be savored. This book is a beautifully descriptive tale of a gypsy Romanian witch who overcomes insurmountable odds to become the indisputable savior of the clan. Reading about how Ursule matured as both a woman and a witch was surreal. The challenges she faced and the choices she made are expertly intertwined. Author Louisa Morgan crafted an immersive world that highlights the gypsy lifestyle and the prejudices against both them and those who believed in magic .

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley.
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NOTE: I received early access to this manuscript in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you netgalley and Redhook Publications. Scheduled Publication Date: February 15, 2022.

Author Louisa Morgan has written a series of historical novels about witches, but this is the first I've read. It takes place in France between the years 1762-1820, spanning both the French Revolution and Reign of Terror-- though neither plays a huge role. It's MOSTLY an action-packed story (that I enjoyed reading), following the life of Ursule Orchière. Born into a Romani family, Ursule soon shows herself to possess much more "magic" than her theatrical, fortune-telling mother Agnes. Ursule actually HAS the gift of sight.

But society at this time is not kind to outliers. Circumstances (no spoilers, promise) eventually force Agnes and Ursule to leave their wandering community and settle permanently on a modest farm in the remote countryside, run by a big-hearted farmer named Remy and his bitter wife Madeleine. Conflicts with Madeleine ebb and flow over the years as Ursule's family expands and as she gains mastery over her powers and skills. All the while navigating the dual threats posed by widespread prejudice against Romani AND religiously-fueled witch-hunting. 

Ursule's story offers plenty of drama -- attempted rape, love affairs, witch burnings, jealousies, personal and social rejection, marriages, and frequent childbearing. Ursule uses her talent to ease suffering and ensure the safety for those she loves. So, this is NOT a novel about the Devil and evil witchcraft. Because while Ursule DOES have SOME ability to see into the future, most of her "spells" come from documented knowledge she inherited about ways to apply herbs and plants to commonplace situations. 

THE GREAT WITCH OF BRITTANY is a plot-driven historical novel. The writing is certainly serviceable. It carries the reader along, but isn't anything special. In fact, there were quite a few times when I felt the pace was uneven and the plot wandering. But, overall, I enjoyed what turned out to be a story about extended family, as much as it is about witches.
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The Great Witch of Brittany grabbed my attention from the beginning.  I enjoyed the setting and the historical perspective, as well as the well developed characters  The book is divided into sections, allowing you to follow the characters through many years. The author allowed us to follow Ursule from the beginning of recognizing her magic through her difficult but well lived life in which she truly "comes into her magic." I just recently realized that this is part of a series, and will be reading those as well.  I'm glad to have found a new author that I particularly enjoy.
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This novel is ideal for fans of Alice Hoffman's "Practical Magic" series following the adventures of the Owens women, or for fans of anything Margaret Rogerson has written. I am personally a huge fan of the "Practical Magic" series, and have been looking for similar books, and "The Great Witch of Brittany" has been the closest I could find. The gorgeous, detailed descriptions of the witches are reminiscent of Hoffman's writing - but so much as to feel like the same exact story is being retold. For example, unlike the magic of the Owens women - which was always described in as little detail as possible - Louisa Morgan holds nothing back when explaining how exactly Ursule uses her abilities. Instead of reading a magical realism novel like "Practical Magic," the reader is wholly immersed in the world of witches and all their spells in "The Great Witch of Brittany." Morgan's extreme worldbuilding is reminiscent of Ursula K. Le Guin and Maria V. Snyder.
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The Great Witch of Brittany
Louisa Morgan
Redhook Books/Orbit
Hatchette Book Group
New York, New York
ISBN: 9780316628747
Hardcover
February 2022
$ 28.00
446 pages

"Remember the past.   Live in the present.  The future will come when it's time."

If you lived in 1762 in Brittany, would others think of you as a witch?  What if you possessed the knowledge of herbal medicine and practiced helping women in need?   Is that enough to be a witch?
What if you were a gypsy and were Romanian?
Is fortune telling a form of witchcraft or just knowing the community and listening to others' secrets?
When do you decide if someone is a witch?
What do you do when the accused witch is your mother?  And you are the real witch?
Ursule Orchiere is the descendant of Romanian gypsies.  Her mother earns money in a caravan as a fortune teller making up stories for her clients.  She attempts to please those asking for their fortunes to keep the business profitable.   
As Ursule comes of age, she discovers that she possesses the gift of truly seeing the future.  
Unfortunately, this gift appears at an inopportune time.  The local priest views her mother now as a witch and condemns her to burn.  
How does anyone escape this fate?
The Great Witch of Brittany is a novel for adult female readers.  The ignorance of men, especially Catholic priests of the past, is not favorable, albeit based on many historical actualities.  Many males, even then, are neglectful of their family responsibilities, placing undue burdens on the females. Also, the book does have sexual content. 
I found the community of women bonding together. 
Tin a working relationship as a type of family is fascinating.   The cooperative nature is fictional but definitely, an ideological model to follow.
The plot is well-organized and easy to follow with a story that is unusual and not predictable.  The author revealed research into the setting of time and place utilizing events and artifacts correctly.  Each character is well-developed complete with flaws that allow the reader to visualize everyone. 
The Great Witch of Brittany is an exciting novel written so well that the reader questions whether or not the story happened.  
Louisa Morgan is the award-winning author Louise Marley.  She is a former opera singer who has written many fantasy novels considered feminist, musical, and even dark.
Although this story happened over three hundred years ago, many events continue to happen today.
The Great Witch of Brittany is an enjoyable feminist novel.
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Ursule Orchière is just an early teen as she supports her mother in the telling of fortunes. Witch-hunting, however, is an ever-present danger and her mother Agnes doesn’t escape the notice of the superstitious villagers. 

When her mother is dragged off one night to suffer that fate, Ursule must act without the aid of those in her clan. They are fortunate in their circumstances, finding a safe haven on a farm where Ursule gradually realizes she has been chosen to carry the Orchière line. She recovers the grimoire and studies the pages intently to learn the secrets, the power, the incantations, and the whispered knowledge of her ancestors. 

When Ursule feels her biological clock hammering, mother and daughter conspire on arranging a relationship with a local sightless traveling musician. The relationship yields a daughter.

The author writes with convincing authority slipping in the prose, mixing the languages, hardships, practices, and descriptions of the land. The cloud of the imminent terror of being found out overlays all.
 
The series spurs the imagination and conjures scenes of history both horrific and fascinating. I’m hooked and happy to recommend. 4.5 stars
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I am completely bewitched! I was over the moon to hear about this 2nd book following the Ochiere witch line. 
We travel back in time to a caravan of Romani gypsies, where a young Ursule Ochiere, the great Grand-mere is but a child, sitting next to her mother Agnes, telling fortunes with her clan. 
As Ursule comes into her magic, which is more powerful than any Ochiere in generations, tragedy unfolds. Ursule and Agnes flee for their lives and are separated from their Romani clan for decades .
Agnes, Ursule, Leonie, Loiusetta, mother, daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter have all survived because of a  secret they must keep hidden, the Ochiere crystal & grimoire.

I absolutely enjoyed getting lost in the “gypsy ways” .
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The story of the great witch Ursule, her beginnings and difficult yet satisfying life!  It was quite a journey from the young witch exploring her new found powers to what she became.

Louisa Morgan is an excellent author with engaging stories.

Thanks to NetGallery and the publisher for an advance copy for a honest review!
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The story of Ursule Orchiere was stirring and beautiful. The author depicted the time and place perfectly and the trepidation of being perceived as a witch was palpable. I found Ursule’s life and journey enthralling. Coming into her powers unexpectedly at 13, Ursule soon learns the cost of her magic. Her strength and determination, along with the raven Drom, allowed a harrowing escape for her and her mother from those hunting them as witches. I particularly enjoyed the time spent on the farm with Remy and Madeline. The growth of confidence and understanding was especially interesting to read. Read with the other books by this author or alone, this is a satisfying story.

Thank you Netgalley and Redhook Books for the arc.
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Thank you Netgalley for the ARC. This is another great book by this author. Her books are easy to get into and become vested in the characters. She writes with a style that makes the characters and story line believable. The growth of the main character was what I would have expected from the author. I hate stories where there is not that growth. You want to see the character to learn and face challenges. As this is set before the others I willing will be reading the others again to get the full story!
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An origin tale and so much more, THE GREAT WITCH OF BRITTANY allows author Louisa Morgan to once again create a character that fills readers imaginations with a time and place that brims with life and possibilities. The worlds created here captivate and haunt in equal degrees but once the book begins it’s impossible to put it down as we follow our protagonist from childhood through a long life filled with hardship, magic and descendants.  This was a joy to read.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Louisa Morgan creates an enchanting world, with vivid characters.  Well plotted this book is easily read as a stand alone. 

The overall theme is the strength and resiliency of women, and how their power engenders fear and antipathy, especially in men.

Other themes include racial prejudice.  That in all eras, adifferences of skin color and culture lead to anger and hatred. 

This is a magical book, which I highly recommend.   I was fortunate to receive an ARC. This is my honest review.
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The Great Witch of Brittany by Louisa Morgan is an excellent historical fiction that I truly loved. 

This book is part of a series consisting of a lineage of female witches within a family. This is a prequel of sorts and it can easily be read as a standalone. 

I loved learning all about Ursule Orchiere. This is where it all seems to start: 1700s Brittany. Ursule learns her hidden magical abilities, the power that she has within, and must use these unrefined powers to help rescue and save her mother. There is great joy in all she needs to learn, especially at such a young age, but there are also huge risks from multiple fronts. What costs and burdens will she be forced to bare with these huge responsibilities that have been placed within her? What sacrifices might be undertaken to for saving and for founding a lasting dynasty? I loved the suspense and mystery included in finding out. 

5/5 stars 

Thank you NG and Redhook Publishing for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 2/15/22.
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