Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Wicker Light by Mary Watson

Review: The Wicker Light by Mary Watson

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Extract:

Between the twine and hair are fingernail cuttings. 

This must be one of Laila’s spells. 

Even though I don’t believe in magic, it’s difficult not to connect this horrible thing with the strange way she died. It feels like Laila doomed herself, accidentally cursed herself, and died. 

(The Wickerlight by Mary Watson. P63.) 

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Synopsis:

Living in Kilshamble was supposed to bring Zara’s family back together after her parents came close to divorce. Instead, with the death of her sister Laila, it tore them apart.

Zara isn’t buying that her sister’s death was an accident. Not when she was obsessed with all things magic. Not when there’s a strange conflict in the village between rival groups, a conflict which regularly escalates to violence.

Investigating Laila’s death brings Zara into contact with David, the troubled boy who isn’t beyond redemption. David’s family are searching for a lost family heirloom which holds far more than a sentimental value?

Is it possible Laila’s quest for magic took her out of her depth? As Zara searches for answers, she finds herself drawn dangerously close to the conflict between two rival magical groups: judges and augers.

A compelling mystery novel and companion to The Wren Hunt.

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Review:

Thriller meets folklore in the second book of this extraordinary series. Imagine a world where Earth magic still exists in hidden pockets. There are two different approaches, one which is elemental and practiced by Augers, another which relies on order and is practiced by Judges. The factions who practice these related magics are part of a centuries-long civil war which centres on the Irish village of Kilshamble. This much was established in book one. Starting off two months after the events of The Wren Hunt, this story changes the camera angle to see the village through the eyes of an incomer and non-magical inhabitant.

Unlike her late sister Laila, Zara’s never believed in magic. Following in her sister’s footsteps brings her into contact with the augers and judges and puts her own life in danger. It also brings her closer to David – the Judge boy who is supposed to kill and injure on his father’s orders.

Think Capulets and Montagues in a Celtic setting. It is brooding and teenage and at the same time, these teenagers have never had a chance to be children. They’ve been shaped for war since birth.

The question of which faction killed Laila and why relates to the events of The Wren Hunt. Snippets from Laila’s diary head every other chapter and lead to a climax in a way which kept me up into the small hours. It was wonderful to read a thriller which linked into a wider fantasy plot. This merging of genres opens new ways of telling stories and Kilshamble is a setting which is at once filled with magic and grounded in the everyday.

Alongside the story of Judges and Augers is the story of Zara’s family. Her father has been caught having affairs, and Zara desperately wants her family to stay together. They’ve already undergone one huge change, moving to Kilshamble, and she’s afraid that if her parents divorce she will have to South Africa with her mother. Despite everything which has happened, Zara wants to remain in Kilshamble. The magic her sister loved is rich here and this is where Zara feels close to Laila. This is a story of grief, change and moving into new stages of life. Both Zara and David know what they want already, but owning it is another question.

Having read The Wickerlight, I am desperate to return to The Wren Hunt and to remind myself of some of the contexts of the magical dispute. Everything which takes place in these books feels as though it is grounded in something deeper, something centuries-old, as if a seed planted many years ago has grown into twisting thorns. I look forward to continuing the story when the next book comes.

A story of a feud and the young people who grow as a result of the battles. It is a haunting tale which will remain on your mind long after you close the pages.

 

Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for my gifted copy of The Wickerlight. Opinions my own.

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Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

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The Wran, the wran, the king of all birds,

On St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze,

Her clothes were torn, her shoes were worn,

We chased her all night, right through until dawn.

(From The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson. Based on Traditional rhyme.bird

Synopsis:

Wren lives with her grandfather in the village of Killshamble. They are Augurs, or seers, able to read futures and see patterns in nature. For as long as anyone can remember, Augurs have been at war with the Judges. Their magic relies on the same magical source, the Nameta, and there isn’t enough of it for everyone.

The Judges hold all the Nameta, and will not share it with the Augurs. When a local man dies, the Augur leaders devise a plan to increase their share of Nameta. A plan which involves Wren posing as a Judge in order to infiltrate their ranks and steal a map which will lead them to the power stones.

Wren falls in love with one of the Judge boys. With his help she does some detective work, and discovers there is more going on in Killshamble than she had realised.

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Review: 

A folksy, dreamy story with a modern-day sharp edge. This has so many things I love, from magic to history to increasing mystery. There is something compelling about this book, and it starts with Wren. Why is she so significant to both Judges and Augurs? Every St Stephen’s Day the Judge boys chase her through the village, and it is clear from the start that this is more than a childish game.

Another thing which kept me reading was Wren and Tarc’s relationship. Wren is warned away from Tarc. He is a Judge boy. Is he seducing Wren for some sinister purpose? The deeper into the mystery Wren goes, the more paranoid she becomes. I was left holding my breath, certain she was walking into danger but not understanding how that danger would manifest. Like all good mysteries and thrillers, I felt as if the answer was tantalisingly close. The conflict reminded me of Romeo and Juliet, with Wren forced to decide where her loyalties lie. 

I loved the female relationships in this book – the friendships between Wren and the Augur girls, and her growing relationship with Cassa Harkness. Cassa is an intriguing character. Initially I thought she was going to be a tyrant, but she turns out to be more complex and interesting, and there is so much more I would love to know about Cassa.

I also loved the history of Killshamble’s magic, and its different factions. This isn’t cardboard cut-out factions who fight over one issue. These factions have developed over history. They are seeped in politics and old scores and past events.

Read this on a dark night, with a candle burning. It is that kind of book. You will love its atmosphere before you even think about the plot.

 

Louise Nettleton

Huge thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing and Liz Skelly for my ARC. Opinions my own.