Scotland? Yes. Witches? Always. Time-traveling? Not opposed. C. J. Cooke’s The Lighthouse Witches had me hook line and sinker from page one. I was slightly concerned this would have too much of an Outlander vibe, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. A story about fae, wildlings, grimoires, and unexplained disappearances and re-appearances, Cooke creates such an interesting gothic-mystery-thriller-witchy-extravaganza. It is one of those books you want to read again right after finishing it.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Cooke seamlessly incorporated both Scottish and Nordic mythologies, mostly Scottish leaning, on this small Scottish isle. Mom, Liv, comes to the island with her three children Saffy, Luna, and Clover, clearly trying to escape something and end up finding themselves wrapped up in the mysteries of the lighthouse and the centuries-old witches’ curse cast on the island.
Liv brought her family to the island under the pretenses of a commission to paint a mural in the lighthouse. In the month that her family is on the island, Liv begins to experience strange occurrences and has to come to grips with some of the superstitions that the locals have been peddling to her in the wake of the disappearance of two of her children at different times.
Cooke tells the story through four different narrators, Liv, Saffy, Luna, and Robert, all taking place at different times, 1998, 1998, 2021, and the 17th-century, respectively. I thought Cooke did a great job of navigating timelines in The Lighthouse Witches. This narrative structure allowed Cooke to be able to unravel the mysteries of the story in a way that had me guessing until the very end.
Cooke creates such an interesting puzzle in The Lighthouse Witches. The “present” is set with Luna, who was nine when the family moved to the island, as a woman in her early thirties with vague memories of the island and the knowledge that both her siblings and her mother have been missing for 23 years. She suddenly finds herself back on the island with her recently found youngest sister, who is the same age she was when she disappeared.
17th-century Robert, through Saffy reading his grimoire, reveals part of the history of the island. Eventually, through his narrative, we learn of the origins of the curse and the role of the cave, called the Witches Hide. We also learn that perhaps Robert plays a bigger role than first meets the eye.
The Lighthouse Witches draws you in and involves you in this well-paced narrative. I enjoy reading mysteries that drop little nuggets of information allowing you to feel a part of and invested in solving the mystery. Cooke feeds these bits here and there, which at times feels like elucidation and at other times more like obscuration.
If you cannot tell, I truly enjoyed reading C. J. Cooke’s The Lighthouse Witches. It was well thoughtout and executed. The characters and their stories were so compelling. The mystery was truly a mystery. And the incorporation of Celtic and Nordic lore, witches, and time-travel was *chef’s kiss* magnifique.