A witch/demon/female entity of some sort punishes a predatory man for the harm he has done to womankind. Interior design is involved somehow.
Title: Payback’s a Witch
Author: Breanna Hayse
Review Rating: 1 star
It should be simple
The POV character is an immortal being that feeds on the energy she gets from punishing men who harm women. That would seem like a slam dunk on the ol’ “Which side of this am I on?” question, but in a very few pages author Breanna Hayse manages to turn the abuser into a victim of injustice. Things aren’t going well when the trail of battered and dead women in the villain’s wake can’t generate enough sympathy to balance out how profoundly I came to loathe the female lead.
As a crusader for justice in the name of women, the main character falls well short. The casual contempt for the proverbial Las Vegas pole dancer with artificial boobs is a bad start. How is that poison justified? What makes some women worth avenging and some women cheap props? The female lead can, and I mean this with the utmost respect for her great age and experience, blow that bullshit out her ass.
Nobody to cheer for and nobody to hate
The bulk of the Payback’s a Witch is the punishment of Donovan for his crimes against women and girls. It is made clear to him that there is only one way to save himself. One way. This is repeated. It is repeated while the main character stands up and opens a window, connecting the words to the window in Donovan’s mind. One way out. Look at the window, Donovan. You want out of this, don’t you? See the paved road and neon lights pointing at the window, Donovan? But oh no, Donovan! What made you think she was suggesting suicide, Donovan? Silly Donovan.
Donovan “chose the path of eternal damnation,” the reader is told. No, he bloody well didn’t. He was deceived and murdered by a hypocrite. Her disingenuous regret is a brief distraction from the real business of congratulating herself for her own righteousness. The main character had one job, which was to give the reader a little jolt of illicit pleasure at watching an abuser get wrecked, and she fails so comprehensively that I want to start a Justice for Donovan campaign on Facebook.
I don’t even know, dude
Payback’s a Witch is plagued by errors, which make the story look like an amateur effort from nearly the first sentence. A standout example is, “Several such imbeciles have crossed my path over the millennia and offered one opportunity to make amends.” Who is offering what to whom? If there is one thing an introduction as brief and busy as this one needs to get right, it’s to make clear what the rules are. Why would the reader care, otherwise?
The setup itself is quickly sketched and borderline incoherent. I would have to make huge leaps in logic to paraphrase it, so here it is in full.
Me: You came to the States to visit family in Pennsylvania, remember? You pursued this cyberbullying investigation after several groups on social media banned you because of your relationship with me. I never asked for your help. I asked for you to keep your promises. I took weeks off work to spend with you and your family. I designed a dream room for your daughter and prepared the house to take care of your terminally ill wife. I’ve done all of this, yet you refuse to explain what’s going on show proof on anything. Did you even come to the States? The truth, Donovan. This is your last chance.
This pot of exposition spaghetti thrown at a wall is never explained. It’s never linked into a narrative or anything resembling one. And sorting out a confusing set of disconnected images is challenging enough without having to pause and decode what the author is trying to communicate on a line-by-line basis. Sentences like “I’ve done all of this, yet you refuse to explain what’s going on show proof on anything” do not help the reader’s comprehension. My first round of questions would look something like this.
Me: You came to the States to visit family in Pennsylvania, remember? (OKAY, HE SAID HE WAS IN THE USA AND MAYBE WASN’T. GOTCHA) You pursued this cyberbullying investigation (WHICH?) after several groups on social media banned you (WHICH?) because of your relationship with me. (WHY?)(WHAT IS THEIR HISTORY WITH THESE GROUPS?) I never asked for your help. (WITH WHAT?) I asked for you to keep your promises. (WHICH?) I took weeks off work to spend with you and your family. (WHY? WHERE? EXPECTING WHAT?) I designed a dream room for your daughter (WHY? ALSO WHERE?) and prepared the house to take care of your terminally ill wife. (WHICH HOUSE? WHY IS THE TERMINALLY ILL WIFE TRAVELLING FROM SCOTLAND TO THE USA IN HER CONDITION? WHAT DID HE ASK YOU TO DO? WHY WERE YOU WILLING TO DO IT?) I’ve done all of this (WE ARE IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE WHETHER YOU BEHAVED SENSIBLY, SO WE CAN’T JUDGE THE SEVERITY OF DONOVAN’S DISHONESTY), yet you refuse to explain what’s going on show proof on anything. (…PASS.) Did you even come to the States? The truth, Donovan. This is your last chance.
Donovan’s punishment suffers from a less severe version of this tendency to fling images together and hope the spaghetti makes a picture. It almost does. Donovan is an attention-seeking predator, a bad father, a bad husband, a bad man. No attempt is made by author Breanna Hayse to loop in Donovan’s crimes against the main character herself, so bang goes an excellent second opportunity to explain to the reader what the heck happened between them. But the story feels nearly on track.
And then it is over. Ultimately nothing mattered because the system is rigged.❤