Blog Tour Book Review

The Ghost of Ivy Barn by Mark Stay

August 1940

In a quiet village in rural Kent, the enemy is at the gates…

The Battle of Britain rages and Faye Bright encounters the ghost of a pilot who won’t give up the fight. Before she can help him, Faye is whisked away to join a motley crew of witches to perform a top-secret ritual on the White Cliffs of Dover that could repel the invaders.

But there’s a catch. The ritual must be executed in the nuddy. Mrs Teach threatens mutiny. Miss Charlotte is intrigued. And Faye wants to call the whole thing off when she suspects there’s a spy in their midst.

It’s up to Faye Bright to uncover the traitor, all while dealing with the ghost haunting Ivy Barn who may hold the key to the truth. But first, Faye has to learn to fly…

For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes the third novel in this delightful series of war, mystery and a little bit of magic


I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Ghost of Ivy Barn today.  This is the third instalment in The Witches of Woodville series and having loved the previous two novels (The Crow Folk and Babes in the Wood) I jumped at the chance to read and review this latest offering from Mark Stay. The Ghost of Ivy Barn sees our hero, Faye Bright, facing new challenges in her usual determined and slightly haphazard manner.  Firstly there’s the small matter of the ghost of a Polish fighter pilot haunting the titular barn – a rather tetchy fella, although that’s perhaps understandable given his recent demise – as well as a secret ritual to support the War effort.  Faye, as ever, throws herself into all of this with gusto, keen to assist in any way she can. 

Faye is such a fantastic character – she’s a genuinely good person who wants to help others and will always strive to do the right thing, even if she occasionally misses the mark.  Her heart is in the right place, at least, and she is still relatively new to the magic that she’s finding herself increasingly capable of.  I can’t help but wonder at Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach – I believe that they are supposed to be guiding her, and yet they don’t actually seem to teach her anything, leaving Faye to discover things by accident rather than design.  With her power and competency becoming increasingly apparent, I hope that her two supposed instructors will start to take her a little more seriously. 

This novel sees some new witches – and a warlock – added into the mix.  These new characters help to expand Faye’s universe, and I enjoyed seeing Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach clash with these new arrivals.  We know from the blurb that one of these newcomers is a traitor, and the reader does find out who this is quite early in the novel.  It’s not so much a matter of whodunnit, or even why, but is rather about if they’ll be caught before their plan comes to fruition.  I really enjoyed this element of the novel. Being able to see the traitor and understand their plans to sabotage the witches of Woodville adds a degree of tension to the novel, especially as their plan seems to be working.  While I had every faith that Faye and her fellow witches would identify the traitor in time, I couldn’t help but be a little concerned for Faye’s safety.

If dealing with a poltergeist, a secret ritual, and trying to uncover the traitor in their midst isn’t quite enough, Faye’s personal life is also evolving as she and Bertie officially “step out” and as they seek some time alone for canoodling – something they’ve not yet managed to achieve thanks to the constant interruptions that life throws their way.  There’s a meme along the lines of “find someone who looks at you the way person A looks at person B”.  I’d like to propose a new version of “find someone who respects you the way Bertie respects Faye”.  While I’m here for the magic and mischief of these novels, Bertie is so lovely in the way that he understands that Faye is involved in some things that she can’t always discuss and that are potentially dangerous, and is happy to let her get on with it, leaving her free to do what she needs to do.  Their burgeoning relationship is a joy to behold.

From the beginning, I’ve found this series to be utterly immersive and a joy to lose yourself in. I love the setting and I’ve enjoyed seeing Faye learn and develop her powers with each novels – I love her selflessness as she strives to do the right thing against the odds.  It’s a fantastic series, and while the coming-of-age element makes this suitable for the YA market, I think that it also holds wider appeal.  I’ve loved the whole series and can’t recommend it enough. 

The Ghost of Ivy Barn is published by Simon & Schuster and is available now in paperback, digital, and audio formats. Huge thanks to the publisher and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the early copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.

Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.


About the Author

Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com.


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