Goody and Grant have achieved perfect harmony as collaborators: in A Spell in the Country, they write as one. It's well plotted, perfectly paced, fluent, and witty. Fans of the Clovenhoof and Oddjobs series will recognize G & G's signature gentle humor, which tends toward the slap-stick and absurd and is never mean-spirited. They may also note a swerve away from the bawdiness and light-hearted crudeness of earlier novels. The humor here is more situational and social; and scenes that draw comic energy from our shared experience of the body aim high rather than low. There's not much here for 12-year-old boys. Some adult readers, though, may miss the savage social satire and wacky riffs on organized religion that give Clovenhoof and Oddjobs their particular pungency.
"A Spell in the Country" reminded me a bit of The Golden Girls, if they’d been British, witches, and had a foul-mouthed imp following them around (Sophia doesn’t count).
At times, Jizzimus (the imp), was a little bit too crude for my personal taste, but that was easy to overlook in light of the rest of the story.
The premise of the story was amusing and played out skillfully, with the world building giving a lovely feel for the way witches deal with daily life.
Don’t be fooled by the cartoonish cover. The story is not for children, and unless teenagers have changed drastically since I was a teen (definitely possible), I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than 16. Hell, even at my age there were comments and scenes that had me blushing in mortified horror, mostly instigated by the imp whose tastes tended towards the perverse.
Having said that though, by the end of the book, Jizz had somehow endeared himself to me in spite of his foul mouth, and I found myself thinking that having an imp around might be quite fun. Especially if I can send them out for fudge and chocolate in the middle of the night.
As for the witches; I absolutely adored their individual personalities, their snarky comments to and about each other, and in general, appreciated how their friendships developed.
Dee, Jenny and Caroline are the main characters of course, and I enjoyed their individual personalities, but in this story at least, the side characters stole the show for me.
Norma was a firecracker of note, and my personal favourite; closely followed by Sabrina, whose dialogue I kept reading out loud, trying to get the “Ur” sound right. (If anyone can direct me to a recording of an upper class British, “ur,” I’d appreciate it.)
Having said that, the way the three very different witches came together in the most unlikely manner left me feeling like I’d known them for years and would happily sit down with them for a cup of tea.
This was a Pratchett-esque romp through the perils and pluses of being a witch in modern England. I definitely laughed (and groaned) out loud. Despite this being a humorous novel, the central plot and storyline were tight and excellently constructed. I do hope as a reader we see more of these witches in future.