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For centuries the dark arts have been wholly mysterious to those that do not practice them. We have mostly the church to thank for this. Their habit of burning books along with their owners has kept us in perpetual ignorance. It wasn't until this ministry was founded that we even began to study what we were fighting.
Alice
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The Witch Watch is an Alternate History novel by Shamus Young, set in Victorian London; in which a young lady with a head for invention, a boy with a gift for sorcery, and a rotting corpse with a dry sense of humor all find themselves fighting against a strange new threat to the British crown while being under attack of the Church.

Notable for its historical authenticity and a sapid Low Fantasy universe with a rather well-thought-out magic system. Has been likened to the works of Terry Pratchett more than once, but includes just a tad less Lampshade Hanging and Deconstruction and a tad more realism and grit.

Tropes used in The Witch Watch include:


  • Animate Dead: A normal use of revivification, which when not done right can bring people back feral. Particularly horrible when used on dogs. And Lord Mordaunt uses this to create an army for himself.
  • Black Cloak: The Four Horsemen. As Gilbert points out 'Why don't cults ever wear yellow robes? It would catch people off guard.'
    • Which is slightly ironic, as he ends up disguising himself in a black cloak for a large part of the book.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: To put it this way, it's unlikely that the pupils of the 'Ravenstead Academy,' where the curriculum mainly consists of fear and only the strongest are allowed to 'graduate,' are allowed to go home for the holidays.
  • Church Militant: The Church's main activities seem to be killing things and burning evidence
  • Dances and Balls: Sir Brook invites Lord Moxley and other influential people to a dinner and ball of all places to announce his treachery
  • Doing Research: Alice is the Witch Watch's scholar, so it's natural her first attempt at solving a problem is to read up on it and even literally carry out experiments.
  • Elemental Powers: Wizards are people who can invoke some of the primal forces of nature. Fire is by far the most common, but cases of wind and rain have been seen too and there are rumours of wizards with the powers of lightning.
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Alice is an intelligent, independent individual, relying on her brains and gun to solve situations. But in extreme situations she has a little magical fire at her disposal too...
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Specifically undeath, having your undead head removed and buried beneath the ground where it remains conscious forever. 'We could dig his head up today and still find him screaming for release.'
  • Kill It with Fire: The alternative way to dispose of an abomination, rather than leaving them as a sentient, powerless head. Also a favourite method of the Church in any situation.
  • Magic Is Evil: The opinion of the Church and the general populace. To date most magic seems to have been used to cause suffering and destruction, although the Witch Watch has questions the black and whiteness of this view.
  • Master Swordsman: Prince Leopold. Although Gilbert isn't bad himself, with his tactic of just let them stab you.
  • Mundane Object Amazement: Simon and electric lights.
  • Names to Run Away From: Lord Mordaunt. He's even a Viscount. Of Ravenstead.
  • Necromancy: An important part of a book where the protagonist is raised from the dead.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: A very non-comic example with the guards of the Big Bad.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Taking in orphans and using them as an underfed energy source for dark magic is taking it a little far even for Victorian Britain.
  • Ritual Magic: It seems that most of sorcery involves drawing the correct magic circles evenly and correctly. Wizardry on the other hand is an innate ability.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Used both ways during the ending.
  • White Magic: A point of controversy in-universe. Should healing magic be legal? It turns out to be a form of Black Magic that requires Human Sacrifice.
  • Wrench Wench: Alice, although she studies magic her gift is clearly with mechanical things, including creating the Witch Watch. Close to a Gadgeteer Genius.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Four Horsemen are this and use it to their advantage. Later on it's revealed Lord Mordaunt has built up a shiny reputation with important people as well.
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