Witcheskin, by Nem Rowan
Description: (from Less Than Three Press)
Following the disappearance of his father, Owen returns to the Welsh village where his parents grew up to live with his mother and her boyfriend. While pursuing the mystery of cattle mutilations in the area, he meets Maredudd, an old friend of his mother’s, and learns something about his parents that they’ve never told him…
Publication: February 27th 2018.
A review copy (eARC) of this book was provided by the author. Some things might change in the final copy.
Additional disclaimer: The author is related to a friend of mine, this does not affect my opinion.
This book is an ownvoices horror-fantasy-romance debut novel set in Wales, with a 27 years old tran man investigating cattle death and mutilation in his little village.
I had a blast reading this, sometimes reading for long period of times without looking up. The only thing that could willingly make me stop reading was desciptions way too disgusting for me to handle! Thankfully they weren’t too long and weren’t everywhere. Though I have to admit some parts near the end had me almost screaming!
I do wish there’d be more investigation on Owen’s part than just taking pictures, but also investigating weird things is hard, especially when you’re kinda poor and struggling with a family situation so I guess it was on the realistic side.
I liked how Owen transidentity was present here, him talking about his feelings regarding his transition, the way people around him reacted (though this was also hard to read since people can be very awful…) and how he kept on being a nice, caring and funny person all along. I loved that he was so sweet, so shy AND a vegetarian. His love for animals was a very good point for me to love this novel, I also could really feel his love and need to be loved back was at the heart of the novel.
I loved the atmosphere of the little Welsh village where everyone knows one another, with rain and fog, forest and beach. Plus the author being Welsh himself added to the novel since a lot of words are indeed welsh, I googled some of them by curiosity and I’m glad I learned these new words and expressions.
The love interest is 15 years older than the main character, which is okay to me since they are both adult, each caring about the other’s feelings. Their interactions were really the sweetest, always rooted in respect of each others boundaries and consent.
Some characters are revealed to have been in a polyamory relationship and I wasn’t too happy about the way Owen reacted. Though I guess it can be mildly understandable regarding his relationship with the persons involved, it still didn’t sat right with me, especially since the word “polyamory” wasn’t even used but “love triangle” or “threesome” which aren’t the right determination, were.
I definitely think it’s only based on Owen’s character and not the author’s views but that moment could have been handled better in my opinion.
This is a debut novel from an indie publisher, very enjoyable even for a beginner in horror-fantasy like me! Going back and forth between adorably cute scenes to gory and stressful ones was an interesting experience and I’m looking forward to read more magical adventures of Owen and Maredudd!
A tweet that reassured me while I was reading:
Content warnings: (also available on publisher’s website) transphobic verbal abuse (like deadnaming), animal mutilation, sex, grief, mention of suicide, pet disappearance.
An iranian character is also described as having “coffee-colour” skin and I know it can be an issue to some people, so I’m putting it here.