A Tended Garden is a fun short story (approx 58 pages) about witch Alyssa, and the coven she attends, which is run by the tyrannical Rachel. It is part comedy, part fantasy, part horror. Things go wrong for Alyssa on a regular basis, and she is always falling foul of the ghastly Rachel, who reminded me of a PTA Chairwoman I knew once. When the coven meet up, there's an air of school gate ethics at play, which I found hilarious.
Then the fantasy kicks in, as Elah, a dryad or tree spirit, makes herself known to Alyssa as she is clearing up after another coven disaster. There's a sweet romance hinted at between Alyssa and Elah, but not entirely developed, as a romance would get in the way of this particular story. After Elah tells Alyssa the horrifying secret of Rachel's family's success, Alyssa wants to make things right. She does so with a gruesome ending which I won't spoil here.
This is a lovely, gory, sometimes funny story, easy to read and with engaging characters, well-written and described. I always maintain the best short stories are those which leave you hungry for more of the characters and world-building, and this is one of those novellas. Great fun.
Alyssa is a natural witch whose thoughts have a way of coming true. Her coven is the only one around – well, the only one she’ll practice her beliefs with – but her high priestess, Rachel, is particularly difficult to please. But Rachel has a secret she hasn’t told anyone in her coven – one that her ancestral witches before her kept from their covens too. If Rachel’s to hold on to her traditions and the immortality she’s been promised, she’ll have to keep the women in her coven returning to the sacred grove, and that includes Alyssa. But secrets have a way of being revealed, and when Alyssa stumbles across Rachel’s violent and horrifying history with the trees of the grove, the pact between the sacred grove and Rachel’s family may have a price too steep to pay.