The Hag of the Wind by Laura J. Underwood

The Hag of the Wind by Laura J. Underwood
Publisher: Eggplant Literary Productions
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (50 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Ginny Ni’Cooley is a mage facing down demons, ghosts and the distrust of the locals.

Ginny wants a peaceful, quiet life. But quiet is hard to maintain when her mentor is a ghost who died a lush and a letch. And peace isn’t to be found when the villagers of Conorscroft expect their local mageborn to banish monsters and perform miracles.

It’s that last bit causing the most trouble for Ginny. Marman the pig-herder—once an unwelcome suitor—wants Ginny to help his wife to conceive, and doesn’t believe her when she says it’s beyond her powers.

When the couple tries to solve the problem on their own, they unleash a demon imprisoned years ago. Now, their actions have placed all of Conorscroft in danger, and Ginny’s got to find a way to defeat the demon before it destroys her village, the villagers, and makes good on its threat to kill her.

Taking place in Underwood’s world of Ard-Taebh (home to several other books and stories: DRAGON’S TONGUE, WANDERING LARK, DEMON IN THE BONES, among others), THE HAG OF THE WIND is a fast-paced story read full of magic, dark and light.

Some wishes are easy to fulfill. Others, not so much.

Conorscroft is a quiet little village that I’d love to visit, although the descriptions of it were so detailed that in some ways I feel as though I’ve already been there. The best parts of The Hag in the Wind take place as the characters explore all of the wild things that can be found in this community. At times I wished the book could be twice as long so that I’d have more time to explore the hidden nooks and crannies of it alongside Ginny.

The dialogue is uneven from one scene to the next. Sometimes the characters speak with a heavy Irish accent, but at other times they do not. It took me a few moments to figure out what certain words meant when they were being said the Irish way, but I enjoyed the process of sounding them out. The plot would have been much stronger if the characters’ speaking patterns had remained constant, especially given the heavy use of Celtic references and symbols.

This book had such a fast-paced plot that I didn’t want to stop reading until I’d finished the final scene. By dropping the reader into such a quickly-brewing storm, Ms. Underwood snagged my attention immediately. It was intriguing to get to know the main character in such a high pressure situation. Ginny reveals more about herself when she’s chasing the demon than at any other time in the plot.

It would have been helpful if Marman and his wife, Wycie, were given more time to develop well-rounded personalities. They play such integral roles in the plot that knowing more about their backgrounds would have helped me have more sympathy for their plight. Their negative qualities are discussed in detail, but it was difficult for me to see their good sides as well.

I had no idea that this novella was part of a series until after I’d finished reading it. While it can definitely be read as a stand-alone story, I’m looking forward to going back and catching up with Ginny’s previous adventures. My first introduction to Ms. Underwood’s work makes me want to sample more of it.

The Hag of the Wind is something I’d recommend to anyone who likes fantasy and is in the mood to try something a little out of the ordinary.

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