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Webcomic Widdershins is home to treasure hunters, magical kleptomaniacs, and spells gone very awry

Illustration for article titled Webcomic emWiddershins/em is home to treasure hunters, magical kleptomaniacs, and spells gone very awry

The industrial revolution is upon us. In many of England's cities, machines are replacing magic as the primary tool of convenience. But in the city of Widdershins, magic is still in great supply. And it's a very strange place for a seer of spirits, a pipe smoking female treasure hunter, and a stage magician afflicted with a magical kleptomania.


Kate Ashwin's webcomic Widdershins tells various tales of this magical city, starting with poor Sidney Malik, our suffering magician. Thanks to his propensity for unwittingly and quite accidentally stealing small objects, Sid has been expelled from Widdershins University, just shy of his wizarding degree. Sid's true passion, though, is stage magic, and he tries to keep his head afloat performing sleight-of-hand tricks. His kleptomania acts up at an inconvenient moment, and he finds himself attached to a bracelet declaring him the King of Thieves. This brings him to the attention of Harriet "Harry" Barber, the granddaughter of a famed treasure hunter and a treasure hunter herself. Soon they're on a quest to find the thieves' treasure, with a real thieves' gang on their tails.

In the second story, "No Rest for the Wicked," we get to see a bit more of what Widdershins is like as a city. After getting into a speck of trouble, vagrants Heinrich Wolfe and Jack O'Malley have been enlisted as agents of the city bureaucracy against their wills. Wolfe is a talented violinist, but it's O'Malley's ability to see spirits that has won them the gig. Recently, the city has been plagued by "malforms," the destructive results of summoning spells gone awry. But their comical attempts rein in the malforms are somehow connected to their employer, a local politician seeking greater restrictions on magic.


Ashwin strikes a comedic tone with her comic that might be too light for some, but her worldbuilding is growing steadily more intriguing and her characters are fun to spend time with: tough but friendly Harry, sheltered and excitable Sid, kindly Wolfe, and sardonic and often panicked O'Malley. And much of the action is linked somehow to the three very different Barber sisters: Harry, married socialite Florrie, and police Captain Nicola. Widdershins and the Barber family seem inextricably connected, and it looks like Ashwin is gearing up to explore the relationship between the Barbers and Widdershins as well as their relationship with each other. Fortunately, we'll all get to be flies on the wall at that family reunion.


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For what it's worth, Widdershins is also the title of an Urban Fantasy novel by Charles deLint.