This is Harris’s follow-up to Chocolat. Vianne and now two daughters have relocated from the rural town of their initial setting, Lansquenet, to Paris. The novel is tort-like in the density of its imagery, particularly early on. Zozie is a witch like Vianne, but without the self-control and kind heart. She seems mostly like a soul catcher, a devil in a red dress looking to acquire souls. She sees power in Vianne’s daughter, Anouk, and tries to gain her loyalty. The story is of Anouk coming of age and of Vianne rediscovering herself. There is considerable shadow imagery here. Are shadows souls? Are they like the daemons of The Golden Compass, spiritual alter-egos? They appear as animals, like those from Pullman’s books. Are they the shadows of Dante’s Inferno, shades? The game is played throughout, leading to a climax battle between the two powers.
Harris returns to her structural notion of centering the climax on a major holy day. Last time it was Easter. Here it is Christmas. Parallelism is rampant as Harris points out that the witches both lie about their past, assume multiple identities, have issues with their parentage, cast spells of different sorts. It was a very enjoyable read. The similarity to Chocolat was considerable, but that is to be expected when the same characters return. I did not love it, but I did like it a lot. It sagged for me over time. I felt that Harris was too fond of repetition, and that it could have been maybe forty pages shorter, but that is a quibble. Read. Enjoy.