‘Bruja Chica: The Education of a Witch’ - Book Review

In October, the Bram Stoker Award-winning small press, Omnium Gatherum, specializing in “dark fantasy, weird fiction, and horror,” released The Fat Lady Sings, a novella written by native Los Angeles writer Sean Patrick Traver.  This is the first of eight novellas to be collected in Bruja Chica: The Education of a Witch and is part of the Temple, Tree & Tower series.  Traver introduced this series, which focuses on the underground occult scene in Los Angeles, with Graves’ End: A Magical Thriller (2012), followed up with Red Witch: The Tales of Ingrid Redstone (2017), and expands this world with The Fat Lady Sings.

Set one rainy evening at the turn of the 21st century Los Angeles, The Fat Lady Sings introduces readers to an orphaned fifteen-year-old girl who has run away from a system that has failed her and a black kitten, close to expiring, that she finds behind a grocery store.  With a dire hunger that reaches deep to the marrow of her bones and a fever setting in, instead of buying food for herself with the one dollar in her pocket, she purchases food for the kitten.  It was a fortuitous meeting for both, especially given that the kitten was, in actuality, a vessel for necromancer Tomas Delgado who had cheated death many, many years ago.  Tom immediately appoints himself as her protector, and through his ability to project ideas and read others’ thoughts, he leads the girl to a safe haven in a sea of danger.

Traver’s writing is articulate and purposeful; he is a skilled wordsmith which results in a narrative cadence that is reminiscent of the early Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, them (1969).  His characters ring with believability, pulling the reader in to become invested in Tomas and the young girl’s journey and the blossoming bond between the two.  As a Los Angeles native, Traver’s in-depth knowledge of the city reveals a love affair with this metropolis, and he creates an urban mise-en-scene that comes alive, filled with an aura of supernatural elements.  Not surprisingly, all of the Temple, Tree & Tower series titles, as well as his novella, Wraith Ladies Who Lunch (2017), take place in Los Angeles.  These titles also feature Traver’s other skill: his inherent ability to connect historical facts and trivia into a rich narrative tapestry that transcends time and space.  It’s a skill on par with science historian James Burke’s innate ability to make connections across time and space, for example in the book, Connections – From Ptolemy’s Astrolabe to the Discovery of Electricity: How Inventions are Linked – And How They Cause Change Throughout History (2007).  

Fans of supernatural and weird fiction will be drawn to this series, as well as all of Traver’s titles mentioned in this review.  Readers that enjoy Burke and Oates will likely enjoy reading this episodic novella.  Please note that The Fat Lady Sings targets adult readers, and given the seedier backdrop of Los Angeles, readers should be aware there is a disturbing scene of sexual assault and references to the pornographic movie industry.


Creative Team: Sean Patrick Traver (writer)
Publisher: Omnium Gatherum
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