In This Issue
Fiction in Review: The Magical "Circle" Novels
Circle of Five c. 2003
The first three books in Dolores Stewart Riccio's wonderful series can be enjoyed by women of any age, but they are a particular delight for those of us in the boomer-age category. In this series, the circle is a group of five women whose ages range from thirty-something to sixty-something. What started out as a library-sponsored study group quickly evolved into a circle of witches. Now, the group combines its members' talents and spirituality to study witchcraft, use magic wisely, save the earth and solve a murder mystery or two.
Though each member of the circle is a well-drawn character, the stories are told by Cass Shipton: herbalist, psychic, dog-owner, divorcee and mother of skeptical adult children who (fortunately) do not live close by. The other members are: Heather, a wealthy animal-rights activist; Deidre, a feisty mother of three young children; Phillipa, a gourmet cook; and Fiona, the eldest and local librarian. And there's even Cass's dog Scruffy. Not the typical witch's cat, but a suitable familiar for this witch just the same.
Though the stories are told with a good deal of humor, the mysteries and murders are definitely not the cozy type. Circle of Five involves the group taking on a child molester and killer after Cass has a vision from contact with a stranger. Charmed Circle concerns the disappearance of a family and The Divine Circle of Ladies Making Mischief takes on domestic violence. My only complaint is that the perpetrator of the domestic violence is a young husband and father from Saudi Arabia. I may be a little overly politically correct here, but it just seemed a bad time to use this particular stereotype. However, that is the only fault I find with the whole series.
The plots are certainly compelling, but the best thing about these books is how much you become involved with and grow to care about these women. They watch out for each other and are serious about their wiccan beliefs. Cass is a particularly sympathetic character who is easy to identify with (especially for us average, everyday witches) and her love interest a Greek Greenpeace ship's engineer named Joe is a nice touch. Cass meets Joe in Circle of Five and when he is first mentioned in the second novel she says,
"It was almost time for Beltane, May 1, a joyous High Sabbat of creativity and fertility. So naturally I was feeling somewhat depressed that my lover, Joe Ulysses, was in jail again, this time in British Columbia."
It's hard to resist a man who spends time in jails around the world working for peace.
Other, younger, characters are introduced and make appearances in later stories. My favorite is Winnifred "Freddie" McGinty, a wise-cracking teen witch-wannabe whom Cass takes under her wing. The circle decides it's safer to work with Freddie than to leave her trying to work out the witch thing by herself. Her antics can be hilarious (or dangerous) but she's another character you come to care a great deal about.
Happily a fourth book is on its way and should be out this fall. Ms.
Riccio is a fine writer who is able to pull you into her stories and get
her wiccan facts straight at the same time. Here's hoping this is a series
that goes on for some time to come.