Paul Cornell is one of only two people to be nominated for a Hugo Award for prose, television, and comics. His Shadow Police series follows a unit of London police officers who are gifted (or cursed?) with the ability to see magical creatures and effects. Two recent novellas, Witches of Lychford and The Lost Child of Lychford, take the reader to a more rural setting: the small English town of Lychford. The village is located at a place where the barriers between worlds are thin, and the very shape of Lychford ensures that those barriers don’t collapse entirely.
Witches of Lychford introduces us to the town of Lychford and to the three main characters: Judith, an older woman who has known about Lychford’s magical significance for a long time; Autumn, whose rationalism is challenged when she falls in love with one of the Fair Folk; and Lizzie, whose struggle with her faith gets a lot more complicated when she discovers the existence of magic. Each one is shown as a fully-realized character with her own goals and problems. This story also introduces the reader to the way magic works in this setting, but does so in a way that doesn’t detract from the plot.
In The Lost Child of Lychford, we see the continuation of two plotlines that were introduced in Witches but not completely resolved: Lizzie’s crisis of faith and a mysterious apparition that’s been haunting Judith. We’re also presented with a ghost-child who seems to be trying to warn the main characters about some impending catastrophe. Once again, the three-dimensional characterization of Lizzie, Autumn, and Judith helps the reader to care about what happens to them. This story also expands the setting, hinting at stranger—and more terrifying—alternate realities than those we’ve seen before.
Both novellas are fairly quick reads, but despite that, they provide interesting and engaging stories. Hopefully there are more Lychford tales in Cornell’s future.