Welcome to the June 29th stop on the blog tour for Bea’s Witch by Daniel Ingram-Brown with Lola’s Blog Tours. (Tour schedule linked) Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, reviews, author interviews, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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About the Book
by Daniel Ingram-Brown
Publishing 30 July 2021
Genre: Magical Realism
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
The future can be rewritten.
On the eve of her twelfth birthday, Beatrice Crosse runs away from her adoptive home only to encounter the ghost of England’s most famous prophetess. The witch offers her treasure, but can she be trusted? Bea must wrestle her past to discover the witch’s secret and find her way home.
It’s been seven weeks, three days and five hours since I was forced to leave the place I called home. Time feels like rock in my belly.
What do I wish?
My hand’s cold. I can’t concentrate. I’m holding it in a pool of freezing water. The sign says it’s a natural wishing well, fed by “magical waters.”
“Make a wish within this well,” it says, “give your hand but never tell.”
There are rules:
“Use your right hand.
Make your wish.
Let the water dry naturally on your hand.
Don’t wish for money.
Don’t wish harm on others.
And keep it secret.”
The pool is carved into the side of a rocky passage, tucked behind a waterfall they call the Petrifying Well. It’s damp in here, and I have to stoop, making my back ache. It’s all part of a tourist attraction called Mother Shipton’s Cave. There are woods stretching along the side of the river, hiding this pool, the waterfall and the cave. Denise brought me here. I didn’t want to come.
They say Mother Shipton was a witch.
Wind blusters down the passage making me shiver. Somewhere above, a jackdaw caws, its harsh cry echoing along the rock. I wish it would shut up. I can’t think.
What do I wish?
It cries out again. It knows a storm is coming. Storm Ali – I heard it on the radio this morning. I imagine Prince Ali from the Disney film, but giant, made of swirling, dark clouds, looming over us, flicking a genie-like tail. I hate Disney.
Think, Beatrice, what do you wish?
I wish I could concentrate!
My palm’s flat against the bottom of the pool; the rock is worn smooth, cold and slimy. It feels weird to touch. Green light shines through the water, making my shadow look ghostly and misshapen, as if there’s someone standing behind me.
What am I doing?
Usually, I wouldn’t pay any attention to this sort of thing. It’s for kids, and I’m eleven, nearly twelve – not a kid anymore. But something made me want to put my hand in the water. I don’t know what it was – a feeling in my belly. I was going to walk away, but I kept looking back, as if something was calling me, as if something almost…whispered.
Wind whips mouldy leaves around my legs. They smell of decay. Drizzle has trickled under the edges of the sleeves of my coat. Summer’s over. It’s a new school year.
A new school.
A new home.
I don’t want to think about it.
The cold stings my skin, but I push my hand down harder, holding it under the water. The light has changed now. Blue. There are tourists chattering in the distance and the constant sound of dripping water.
I flinch. What was that?
Is Denise calling me again? She’s always calling. I look round.
No. There’s nobody there. It’s just the wind. The old iron lantern above me sways, creaking.
I turn back, irritated. But despite feeling the whole thing is childish, my hand is still in the water. It’s starting to go numb now. I’m about to pull it out when a coke can clatters along the passage, making me jump. The ivy hanging from the rocks flicks, as if an invisible hand is brushing through it. The icy gust hits me and I close my eyes.
My eyes spring open.
‘Who said that?’
There’s nobody there. I’m alone.
You have an overactive imagination. Everyone says so.
I scrunch my eyes closed. What is it I wish? What do I want?
I feel the light in the pool change again. Red. The dark spots behind my eyelids pulse and I watch a shape form. It’s familiar, a figure I’ve pictured many times. I see the strands of her hair appear first, writhing, Medusa-like, a swirl of energy. The strands are tangled and chaotic. She’s like a torch, a flame. I feel my heart lift, her energy pulsing through me. She’s the only thing that lifts me this way, the only thing that makes sense. Below her twisting hair, I see her body. She sits still and rooted, crossed-legged, as solid as a tree, anchored deep in the earth. I feel her stillness, her safety. It surrounds me. I breathe it in.
She holds her head in her hands, the sleeves of her jumper pulled over her fists. Her eyes are covered, her head turned down. I want to burn with her, to be lost in that stillness. I begin to reach out.
My trance is broken, and the fiery-haired woman vanishes. Cold stings my skin again.
It’s Denise. I spin round, pulling my hand from the wishing well, embarrassed.
Denise smiles. She’s watching me, just along the passage.
‘You’re making a wish!’
Her smile is perfect, her teeth whitened. Even in this wind, her hair looks like something from a catalogue. She’s wearing vintage Levi jeans, white pumps and a Saint James top with red, sailor stripes. She’s trying to look younger than her age. She must be at least fifty. She’s trying to be my friend. I don’t want a friend. And I certainly don’t want a new mum.
Bea’s Witch Excerpt Chapter 7
There’s a burst of energy as everyone jumps up, packing their things away.
I push my work into my bag, wondering why nobody is talking about what just happened. As I stand to leave, Charlie steps in front of me, blocking my path, two Angelettes behind her. She thrusts out her hand towards me, a piece of paper in her fist. It takes me a moment to register what it is. As I do, my stomach tightens.
She steps towards me. ‘What’s this?’
‘None of your business,’ I reply. ‘It’s not yours.’
She begins to read. ‘You are invited to Bea’s Birthday Tea.’ Her voice is mocking. She smirks. ‘Aw isn’t that sweet? Little Bea’s birthday tea.’ The girls behind her giggle. ‘When is it?’ She glances at the invitation. ‘Ooh, tomorrow! How exciting.’
‘Give me that. It’s not yours! You’re not invited!’
‘Aw. And I really, really, really wanted to go too. Boo hoo.’ She sticks out her bottom lip.
‘Give it me!’ I try to snatch it, but she pulls it away, lifting it high.
I can feel my cheeks burning. ‘Where did you get it?’
‘I found it on the floor. Somebody obviously didn’t want it.’
Of course they didn’t. Why would anybody want to come to my birthday?
I realise I’m trembling. ‘Liar!’ Charlie watches me calmly, amusement in her eyes.
‘Aw is little Bea going to cry?’
My body sways, the air in me compressing. In my pocket, I feel heat sparks from the coin, fire rushing through my muscles. I lunge forward, and before I know it, I’ve slapped Charlie square across the cheek. The smack resonates from the walls. The other girls step back, shocked. Charlie’s head tilts but her feet remain planted. She freezes a moment, but then slowly turns back to face me. My palm is tingling. It feels as though I’m watching from above. A crimson bloom spreads across her cheek. My body is ready to react, ready to fight, to defend myself. Nobody breathes. Charlie’s eyes are steel. She holds me in her gaze. Coldness floods my limbs. But then, she turns and marches away. ‘Come on,’ she says, ‘I’m not wasting my time here.’
Without looking back, she leaves the classroom. The two Angelettes scamper after her, glancing back over their shoulders.
I stand, frozen.
What have I done?
The pressure behind my eyes throbs. My hand stings.
This isn’t good.
I imagine my invite on the floor, abandoned and trampled.
That’s all I am. Discarded. Nothing. A great big cross.
I imagine Poppy laughing as she drops it. “Why would I want to go to that?”
I blink, trying to hold back the tears, but I can’t. Hot wetness trickles down my cheek.
I don’t want anyone to see me like this. I can’t. They hate me as it is.
I grab my bag and run, knocking a desk as I fly from the classroom. Pushing through the crowds trying to avoid the rain, I dash out of the school, ignoring the shouts of a kid I shove out of the way. I think I hear Aisha calling me, but I keep my head down. I don’t want anybody to see me.
Why would they want to come to my birthday? Stupid!
The rain is torrential now. It stings my skin.
Past the swimming pool. Over the lights.
Storm Callum is heavy overhead. The rain mingles with my tears.
Up the High Street. Along Berry’s Passage.
My foot slips on the wet stones. It sounds like the scraping of the trapped pigeon.
A big cross.
That’s all I am.
Sodden hair whips my face. My fingers are numb.
I don’t stop running until I’m home.
Bea’s Witch Excerpt Chapter 10
Tesco. Phone shop.
She doesn’t remember me!
Across the high street. A car screeches to a halt. I dive into the narrow passage that leads to the market square.
I need another coin. I need help.
Butter Lane. Man with Zimmer frame.
I jump onto the curb to avoid him and see my reflection in the glass of a charity shop window.
I hate how my cheeks are always flushed, how my skin is freckled and pale. I hate my wispy hair. I look like a doll.
If I’m a doll, I’m a china doll. Hard. Nobody’s getting in here.
I run across the market square, my feet pounding the cobbles. Everything here is so sickly quaint. I miss the city, the graffiti, the smell under the railway arch where I used to hang out with Lizzie and Tag.
I leap over the stone steps of the market cross.
I need my coin!
Past the Market Tavern. Lights flash inside. A black, iron cat peers down from its roof, frozen in time, like everything here.
I scramble on, past the ice-cream shop.
My mind swerves between past and present.
We queued there when I first arrived. Denise thought it was a treat. She doesn’t know me. Nobody here knows me.
I didn’t want a new life.
My heart pounds as I sprint into the castle car park.
But there’s no going back.
Public toilets. The smell of urine. Sidestep the bins.
This can’t be happening.
A driver waves angrily as they try to reverse from a disabled space. I stick two fingers up. The castle gate’s ahead. I dash through it.
Dog walker. Dog. Jump the lead.
I race past the ruins.
There’s the view everyone comes to see, dark and dreary now, the storm hanging over the valley.
A gust of wind blows hair across my face as I jump down the first few steps towards the river.
My backpack is heavy. I want to rip that weight out, burn it away.
Halfway. A viewing point. I stop for a moment, panting.
The town clings to this side of the valley, a church beyond the viaduct, poking out of the trees like something from Frankenstein. The other side of the river is dark, covered with forest. There are no houses there. No sign of human settlement – just the Petrifying Well.
That’s where I need to be.
I run on. At the bottom of the steps, I begin along the river. The cliff looms over me. Water hisses through the weir.
There’s a Narnia-like lamppost and cabins that look like they’ve been plucked straight out of an Enid Blyton story. I hate Enid bloody Blyton. And Narnia. The kids in those books are from some sort of alien world. Nothing like me. Nothing like my life.
My chest burns as I glance back. Nobody’s following.
The light’s fading now.
I need to get to the other side of the river. I need another coin. I dart onto the road that leads across the bridge. On the far bank is an inn. It’s cottage-like, covered in ivy, hanging baskets flanking its windows. I hear people laugh inside.
I duck behind it, away from the road and come to a stop.
From a whitewashed wall, a black and white painting of an old woman stares at me, her eyes dark.
I stare back.
Her face is silhouetted, her nose long and crooked, like it’s been chiselled from the rock. A scarf hangs from her hair, flowing down like the river. I slip down the side of the building, and I’m there.
A wooden gate stands in front of me, blocking my path. A jackdaw sits on the post to its side, as if guarding the entrance. It stares at me.
Is that supposed to keep people out? I jump up, using the fence as a foothold. The jackdaw leaps into the air, disappearing into the trees.
“Near this well I first drew breath,” a sign next to the gate reads.
I pull myself up, scrambling over, and jump down the other side, landing on a soft path of mulched leaves. The ground crackles as insects scurry away.
They won’t find me here. It’s closed. I’ll be safe until morning.
Bea’s Witch Excerpt Chapter 11
The match flame flares, casting orange light onto the objects in the well, making them look monstrous and misshapen.
Crouching, I pull a piece of paper from the pile. It’s the photo of me as a baby with the memory scribbled beneath.
There’s a twist in my gut, and I pause.
Have I got the stomach for this? This is the only picture I have of myself as a baby.
I think of the Instagram message. “Who are you?”
I harden my resolve. I don’t care. I want to be rid of it, rid of the past.
The objects in the well clank, the storm threatening.
A cloud of water droplets swirls from the well.
Something cold brushes the back of my neck and the match goes out.
What was that?
I freeze, my eyes darting, searching the fading light.
Don’t be silly.
I felt it. A hand. Fingers.
My skin crawls.
It was the water from the well, I tell myself. That’s all.
I wait, listening, my muscles tensed. The forest murmurs. Constant splashes echo from the pool. The trees don’t rest; they move continually, sighing and swaying, the branches creaking to a crescendo and then falling still.
After a moment, I allow myself to move again, still alert, still watching, but driven by the need to get on with what I came to do.
Burn the stuff. Get a coin.
I pull out another match and hold it against the box, ready to strike, but as I do, something rustles below, and a sleek, brown body shoots from the foliage, making me start. The thin torso of an animal disappears into the undergrowth again, causing a jackdaw to jump from the vines with a burst of feathers. I feel the air stir about my face. Other birds dive after it, flocking up to the high branches of a tree that leans over the cliff above. They perch on the bare tree, as if spying, hooded shapes peering down at me, dark omens.
They don’t want me to do this.
Don’t be stupid!
I steel myself and strike the match. Again, the shapes in the well glow orange, their twisted shadows swaying. I hold the flame to the corner of the photo, using my body to shelter it. The paper catches.
Flames lick the edge of the photo. The birds above are still restless. One calls relentlessly, a shrill warning, as if being stalked by a predator. The smoke swirls in the damp air and the hanging shapes flicker garishly. The paper glows and curls, fire eating the picture and the words. I’m jealous of its hunger. I feel hollow, a deep coldness at the centre of my life.
That was a voice!
I peer into the thick forest, my mind racing.
Someone’s here. Someone’s followed me.
This isn’t funny!
It’s Charlie. I know it is. I’ll do more than slap her if she’s followed me!
I go to shout, but my voice is husky. ‘I know you’re there!’
My cry dies away. Above, the bird stops shrieking.
‘Stop!’ I whisper. ‘Stop it!’
I search the shadows again: up the steps to the door; among the trees guarding the top of the cliff; along the edge of the waterfall; through the bushes growing around the waxy rocks. But I don’t want to look round, not fully, because I know it’s there, behind me, waiting – the cave. I know it wants me to look, but I won’t.
That’s where the voice is coming from. You’ll have to look in the end. You’ll have to face it.
No! Shut up!
But I can feel its darkness, drawing me, willing me to step closer.
I won’t. Focus. You have a job to do. Just do it and then get out of here.
I look back at the photo. The flame is taller now. The heat prickles my skin. I want to let the fire burn my hand. I want to burn myself away, to find another self. Orange tongues lick at my fingers.
Heee…wanted…meee…buurrrn…Woooolsey. The wind sighs like a ghost.
Why am I speaking to the air?
He said I was a witch…witch…witch…
At the words, my phone, which is lying on top of the pile of objects, suddenly lights. Without anyone there, without it being touched, the screen glows, its cold light mingling with the orange flame.
Tinny music rings from its little speaker, stark through the trees. It’s Taylor Swift.
Words about witches and flames ring through the glade. In a panic, I rush forward and grab the phone, dropping the photo as I do. The phone almost slips from my hand too, but I catch it and jab the screen to silence the music. The photo drifts down to rest on the damp stone, where is writhes, smouldering, but not destroyed.
I turn the phone off, pushing it into my pocket, and look up.
‘You alright, luv?’ A woman in a heavy black cloak stands in front of me. She’s holding a staff, her face shrouded in shadows. ‘Sorry to startle––’
‘What the hell are you doing?’ My heart is hammering my chest.
‘I could ask you the same!’
‘You scared the crap out of me!’
‘Language!’ The woman steps forward, thin moonlight falling onto her face. I recognise her.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Consider liking my review on Goodreads
I was granted complimentary audiobook access to Bea’s Witch as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title with Lola’s Blog Tours. Thank you to all involved in affording me this opportunity! My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Beatrice has been in the foster system for a few years now ever since she was removed from her young mother’s care, and now that she’s been adopted at the age of 12 she’s having a lot of trouble adjusting. Armed with her steadfast friend, the plush turtle in her pocket, Bea attempts to run away and encounters the ghost of an old witch whose remembered life parallels Bea’s own.
This story is short and sweet but packed with emotion, and I loved it! I was also just plain fascinated by the inclusion of Mother Shipton’s Cave, a location I only recently heard about and would love to visit. This book provides an interesting perspective on the kid’s point of view and struggles in late adoption situations like this, and although it can be enjoyed by anyone, I hope it’ll also be helpful to adoptive parents and their new children.
About the Author
Daniel Ingram-Brown is a First Story writer-in-residence for secondary schools in Yorkshire. He has a Masters in Creative Writing and Drama in Education, and is currently studying for a PhD exploring adoption through creative writing. He is also a playwright and is Artistic Director of Suitcase and Spectacles Children’s Theatre. Daniel’s passion lies in writing stories which inspire readers and audiences to think and wonder. Daniel is the recipient of the Taner Baybars award for original writing in the field of science fiction, fantasy and magical realism, awarded by the Society of Authors Authors’ Foundation. He lives in Yorkshire, UK.
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Bea’s Witch. These are the prizes you can win:
– 1 paperback copy of Bea’s Witch + vintage postcard from Mother Shipton’s Cave + book related pin (open International)
– 1 paperback copy of Bea’s Witch + vintage postcard from Mother Shipton’s Cave + book related pin (UK only)
– ebook copies of all three books in the Firebird chronicles by Daniel Ingram-Brown (open International)a Rafflecopter giveaway
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