Book Review – THE FEN WITCH OF GOOSEFEATHER SPLIT – by Benjamin Langley

Review by Goat Leader

Hey kids! This is a non-spoiler review.

Ever since an encounter with the Fen Witch of Goosefeather Split, Charlie has been plagued by nightmares in which she rises from the marsh. When he receives a call in the middle of the night, disturbing one of these nightmares, Charlie realises that he must go back to the village in which grew up, and there’s only one thing worse than returning to the witch’s domain: if he returns home, he might run into his father.

Well, what can I say? Benjamin Langley has done it again! The Fen Witch of Goosefeather Split is a horror novella that, like Langley’s novel Dead Branches, has an atmospheric setting and utilises dual timeline story-telling.

Our protagonist, Charlie, lost his mum as a child when she disappeared, suffers an increasingly shifting and unstable relationship with his father and brother as he ages, and leaves his hometown. He has to return in adulthood due to the news of the disappearance of a beloved friend, and a compulsion to solve the mystery, lest he suffer the agony of never knowing, just like he had to with his mum.

I’m gonna get right in to my favourite things about this story.

The witch. I love that not only is that witch real (this isn’t a spoiler, just a fact), but that she’s just sort of accepted as a truth of the town. At least that’s the impression I got, anyway. There’s a secret, underlying evil in the setting that everyone refuses to acknowledge, but feels deep down. This gave me Derry vibes (from Stephen King’s universe). I also love that this isn’t your standard witch, although I really can’t go into why here without spoiling bits of the story. What I will say is that this is different, and you won’t get a stereotypical hag clutching a cauldron with gnarled hands here.

In some honestly depressing ways, I found the small town relatable, which oddly, made me feel right at home reading it. I’m from a small valleys town in South Wales, and while there are some wonderful people and beautiful scenery, it has its downsides. Like, oh I dunno…. your casual but blatant homophobia and racism. The homophobia in this story was hard to read because it was honest, as were the scenes and depictions of both mental and physical abuse. The subject matter can be dark and horrible but the way Langley handles it makes for compelling and heartbreaking character interactions and relationships. Those people – good or bad – and that town felt so real to me, and the weird air of the supernatural swirling around and knitting everything together made me hope that Langley has more up his sleeve for this location. He could easily open this place up for many stories.

As per usual, Langley’s writing is wonderful, as is his character-work and plotting. I’ve enthused almost endlessly about these factors in my other reviews, so I won’t elaborate again here, but just wanted to repeat myself this one more time!

The final point that I’d like to touch on is probably a headscratcher. Despite the male-orientated plot and almost exclusively male characters, I think this is a feminist story. If you’ve read it, you might be wondering where in the hell I could possibly be drawing that impression from (not that this could, in any way, be taken as a misogynistic story instead). This is going to annoy people, I’m sure, but I can’t tell you why I came to that conclusion because it’s impossible for me to go into it without spoiling a major plot point. I’m not even sure if Langley intentionally included feminism as a theme here, or if his own sense of personal decency just leaked out subconsciously as he was writing, but either way, I was struck by it because, for a novella, The Fen Witch already had so much to say.

How Langley manages to pack so many themes and morals into a book this size without bombarding the reader or coming across as preachy, I’ll never know. I suppose that’s one of the marks of a great writer.

I’d recommend this to those who enjoy an atmospheric, spooky read, stories about small towns, claustrophobic settings, and a supernatural edge.

If you’d like to buy your own copy of THE FEN WITCH OF GOOSEFEATHER SPLIT, you can find it here:


If you’d like to learn more about Benjamin Langley and his work, you can find him on social media, and also at his website here:


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