The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke
Pub Date: October 5, 2021
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Berkley!)
Summary: When single mother Liv is commissioned to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse on a remote Scottish island, it’s an opportunity to start over with her three daughters–Luna, Sapphire, and Clover. When two of her daughters go missing, she’s frantic. She learns that the cave beneath the lighthouse was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft. The locals warn her about wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children, created by witches for revenge. Liv is told wildlings are dangerous and must be killed.
Twenty-two years later, Luna has been searching for her missing sisters and mother. When she receives a call about her youngest sister, Clover, she’s initially ecstatic. Clover is the sister she remembers–except she’s still seven years old, the age she was when she vanished. Luna is worried Clover is a wildling. Luna has few memories of her time on the island, but she’ll have to return to find the truth of what happened to her family. But she doesn’t realize just how much the truth will change her.
Reeling from both the sudden death of her husband and a potentially devastating medical diagnosis, Liv takes her three daughters and runs. Living out of a car is only sustainable for so long however, and Liv accepts a commission to paint a mural in a century-old abandoned lighthouse on a remote Scottish island. The land and its inhabitants are teeming with an ancient magic, stories passed down through generations about witchcraft and wildlings, tales of revenge and murder.
Twenty-two years later, only the middle daughter, Luna, is left. Both of her sisters and her mother mysteriously disappeared and all these years later Luna only has the faintest whispers of memories from that time. She never gave up searching for Saffy and Clover though – and when she receives a call she never expected would come, that Clover has been found alive, she’s ecstatic. Upon arriving at the hospital, however, she quickly realizes something isn’t right. At all. Clover should be a grown woman approaching 30. Instead, the person she greets is a 7-year-old girl. A girl who looks and sounds exactly like her little sister, but a child nonetheless. The longer Luna spends with this girl, the more she begins to wonder if those tales were true: is Clover actually a wildling? And what really happened to her family?
The moment I first heard of The Lighthouse Witches I knew it was something I wanted – no, needed – to read. Like so many other readers, the second the clock struck midnight on October 1, I began reaching for all things moody and supernatural. Give me all the witches, give me all the nightmarish beliefs and missing children that reappear two decades later the same age.
It certainly didn’t hurt that this novel bounces around in time, one of my absolute favorite methods of storytelling. The story not only follows Liv in 1998, but the reader also spends time with Saffy, the oldest daughter. Fifteen is a hard age for any girl, but to still be grieving over her stepfather while having her life upended to move to a remote island? It’s little wonder Sapphire lashes out and prefers to spend more time with a boy from school than with her family. Meanwhile, Luna’s chapters are set in the present day and there’s also a story woven throughout the book from a boy in the 1600s. Needless to say, I was in my happy place.
To solve the mystery behind whatever’s going on with Clover (and hopefully learn the truth behind Liv’s and Saffy’s disappearances), Luna has to return to the one place she never wants to visit again: the lighthouse. The spot where, centuries before, women were imprisoned and tortured until they confessed to witchcraft. The spot where one grieving daughter shouted out a curse of revenge that would last generations. The spot where a boy uncovered a hidden portal.
To say more would be to give away the entire story, but know that The Lighthouse Witches was a fantastic way to kick off spooky season. Admittedly I would have liked things to have been a bit creepier, something a little darker that would have left me sleeping with the lights on, but what I got was still immensely enjoyable. Cooke has several other novels, including last year’s highly praised The Nesting, and though The Lighthouse Witches was my first, I’m delighted to say it absolutely will not be my last and I can’t wait to see what comes next!