Witch Week Master Post

… Witch Week, when there is so much magic around in the world that all sorts of peculiar things happen…

— from Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

Welcome to the fifth annual Witch Week, an opportunity to celebrate our favourite fantasy books and authors. The inestimable Lory of Emerald City Book Review initiated this in 2014, inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’ book called, naturally, Witch Week. This is a fantasy set between Halloween and November 5th, Bonfire Night, marking the day in 1604 when Guy Fawkes was caught preparing to blow up Parliament.

Lizzie Ross and I have volunteered to co-host the event this year, and therefore posts will be appearing on both our sites; you may comment on either or both blogs. This year we’re focusing on Feminism+Fantasy, in honour of the late Ursula K Le Guin, and we hope you might feel inspired to join in by linking up your own posts about books related to this theme.

The goddesses of publishing have joined the celebration, for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition (Saga Press 2018, illustrations by Charles Vess) goes on sale today in the US; it was October 25th in the UK. We both may need to replace our well-worn 1980s Earthsea paperbacks; Lizzie’s rewarding herself with a visit to her nearest bookstore to grab a copy before they disappear.

You may also wish to join in the readalong of Le Guin’s final Earthsea novel The Other Wind; or comment on posts in response to points raised; or simply enjoy the reviews and posts.

Here’s what we’ve planned:

Wednesday October 31st, Day 1: Top Ten Kick-Ass Heroines by Marlyn Beebe
Thursday November 1st, Day 2: Sword-for-hire by Lizzie Ross
Friday November 2nd, Day 3: The Women of Witcher by Piotrek and Ola
Saturday November 3rd, Day 4: A Famous Witch by Lory Widmer Hess
Sunday November 4th, Day 5: discussion of Ursula Le Guin’s The Other Wind
Monday November 5th, Day 6: The Genius of Ursula K Le Guin by Tanya Manning-Yarde
Tuesday November 6th, Day 7: Wrap-up and looking ahead to next year

Do please add your comments below and any links to your reviews on this theme — we’d very much like to see what you’ve all been reading — and feel free to respond to guest posts. However you participate, we hope you enjoy the week as much as we have putting it together!

42 thoughts on “Witch Week Master Post

    1. You’re welcome, Ola — I’d enjoyed Lory’s Witch Week events so much that when she said she was relinquishing hosting them Lizzie and I were both eager to see them continue, hence this joint venture. And we hope we’re retaining the spirit of it all too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Annabel, glad you liked the banner. There’s another take on the ballad by William Lindsay Windus (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/collections/lgbt/gender-identity/item-235522.aspx) which illustrated Burd Helen in a more abject role. However, I chose this detail from a painting by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale as being more appropriate, being by a female artist and showing Helen as being more proactive and self-empowering than traipsing alongside her cruel lover’s horse.


      1. And yet — I’ve just been browsing through the new Earthsea edition, which includes specially written Afterwords for each novel, as well as a general introduction to the “two trilogies” as she likes to think of them. (I refuse to correct that verb to the past tense.) She is still opening new views of Earthsea to us.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. piotrek

    My copy of the new Earthsea edition is already on its way, it will be my … fifth copy of the first novel & second complete edition, Le Guin was lucky in that regard, at least lately 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m guessing you quite like the series then, Piotrek?! Let me know what you think of Vess’s illustrations, what I’ve seen online has been beautiful but I’ve always had a more hard-edged vision of Earthsea than CV has depicted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. piotrek

        I loved his work on Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu, stories in her Jonathan Strange universe,and when I learned he was going to illustrate Earthsea…I knew I have to buy it 😀

        Liked by 1 person

          1. piotrek

            I just got my copy of the Vess-illustrated Earthsea, and… it’s clearly Vess, beautiful, done with great care and love for the books – in cooperation with Le Guin herself, but definitely not grimdark 🙂
            If you want a more hard-edged version, I’d recommend Folio’s edition of book one, it’s great and a bit sombre in tone…

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Do you know what, I’m quite happy with the word pictures Le Guin paints for the reader, it’s all there without the need for a third party to modulate my impressions.

              Mind you, if somebody forced the Vess edition or the Folio Wizard on me it would be very churlish of me to say no… 😁

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jean, it’s such a marvellous concept and, unlike most such events which last a month or longer, concentrated in just a few days! And Lizzie and I have already decided on next year’s theme … but more on that later. 😁


    1. Yes thanks, Paula, I follow this blog and am seriously considering going (and it’s free!) — though it’s on a night I accompany a local choir I may give it a miss for once! If I go I will give a report, I promise. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very welcome, Lory, we both so loved this marvellous concept of Witch Week and couldn’t bear to let it disappear. I have to acknowledge what Lizzie has done, she’s taken on what I may term the lioness’ share of work, chivvying guests (and me!), editing contributions and generally shaping things up—it would be a mere shadow of its current incarnation if not for her.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Hi Chris! I am also glad that you and Lizzie decided to pick this up. It’s so much fun and the theme last year sparked an interest in Arthur and Merlin that has stayed with me. Here is my contribution to the event: https://bookalogue.wordpress.com. I’m looking forward to reading the different posts each day and to the discussion for the read along book! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, BJ! I really enjoyed your review of Katherine Arden’s The Bear And The Nightingale, clearly apt novel to read for Witch Week: you’ve persuaded me I ought to take the plunge and read it soon. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! I’m so glad, Yay! I hope you enjoy it. Everyone has a different perspective and I would definitely be interested in reading your thoughts on it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I shall be saving my pennies for this one, Jo, but though obviously very tempted I know I won’t get around to another reread for a while. On the other hand if someone were to gift it to me I wouldn’t say no! (Not a hint, Jo, before I inadvertently offend!)


  5. This looks great and I am so glad that you and Lizzie have taken it on from Lory, I love Witch Week even when I don’t participate. Lory set a high bar but from what I have seen you and Lizzie have risen beautifully to it. 🙂

    I only have the first three Earthsea books, so I convinced myself that it was cheaper to buy a copy of this lovely illustrated edition than purchase the remaining books separately. It’s true that Vess tends towards the pretty, but that’s a risk I’ll take. At least he hasn’t whitewashed the characters, from the few examples I’ve seen on the interwebs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your very kind comments, Helen! Yes, Lory set/sets high standards and we strove to at least approach if not match them.

      To have all these narratives in one volume will be wonderful—I know that from the Narnia Chronicles and LOTR—and how marvellous to have the ‘second trilogy’ still to read.

      The lack of whitewashing in Vess’s illustrations is to be welcomed, especially as it’s hard to eradicate Middle Earth wizardly stereotypes from expectations: I’m so glad the later Puffin Books editions redesigned their covers to take UKLG’s intentions into account and remove the misconstrued original designs from both the single volumes and the subsequent compendium of the first four books. The Orion Books paperbacks of the last two in the series at least stuck with the Immanent Grove and minute human figures dwarfed by the trees.


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