About the Book
A powerful debut about women, witchcraft, revenge, grief and the ties that bind us.
In 17th-century England, civil war rages and witches have become pawns in a plot to oust the King. Young, red-haired Evey does not want to be a witch, but she cannot deny the magick coursing through her veins.
A storm is coming.
After witnessing the murder of her mother by witch-hunters, Evey vows to avenge her. Fury burns in her bright and strong. But she has promised her mother that she will keep her gifted, little sister Dill, her mother’s favourite, safe.
But battling terrible jealousy, Evey abandons Dill with their Aunt Grey at the coven in the woods, and sets off to town where crowds are gathering for the witch trials.
As the lust for blood and retribution rises to fever pitch, will Evey keep true to the bonds of sisterhood and to her witching ways?
With an enchantingly dark, wintery atmosphere and beautiful lyrical writing, WITCH is the perfect read for fans of A Skinful of Shadows by Francis Hardinge, Witch Child by Celia Rees and Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgwick.
About the Author
Finbar Hawkins is a graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Writing for Young People. He grew up in London and now lives in Wiltshire with his family, in a place steeped in myth and legend. He is a creative director for Aardman in Bristol, where he makes fun interactive things for children of all ages. Follow on twitter @finbar_hawkins
What I Thought
Author Finbar Hawkins has written the perfect read for this time of year. His debut Witch is a young adult novel set in the time of the witch trials, but more importantly it’s a tale of two sisters, and one teenager’s trial to find herself.
It starts with a bang, straight in to the action that throws our young protagonist Evey on the run with younger sister Dill. The sister she harbours a jealousy towards, her mother’s favourite, the one with magick. This quiet sibling rivalry festers to the extent that she shuns Dill’s name for her, Eveline of the Birds.
But what burns inside her is the need for revenge and it is this revenge that is too often missing from the tales of the women put on trial for witchcraft. But in Witch, magic is more than simply things others simply don’t understand or fear. At least it is when pushed to be so.
Evey’s journey through revenge and to herself is aided by Anne, the daughter of the local magistrate and she finds sisterhood with her, and her way back to sisterhood in general. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a touch of romance between them, and there was one secret that I thought Anne was keeping where I was really wrong with my guess. I’d love to know if that was a clever misdirection or if I totally made it up 😂.
I loved the writing and a couple of descriptions stood out. “a desk slumbered beneath papers like fallen leaves, and a feather quill wept black tears for its master’s hand.” and “I licked the edge of my words.” Hopefully they made it across from the review copy to the finished text. I also loved the honesty that the author shared with us about some changes that were made between the copy I read and what is published, showing the value of sensitivity reading and understanding the modern situation even when writing something historically set.
As Halloween night draws ever closer settle down to this atmospheric read, and if like me you have a younger sister too remember not to feed the green eyed monster. Although saying that has oddly got me thinking about one of the character’s surname 🤔.
With thanks to Laura Smythe for the gifted copy for the purposes of honest review.
Do check out my guest post from Monday and the rest of the blog tour spots – Ironically today’s post is by Never Judge a Book by its Cover – but with this one you can because that stunner matches up to the insides.
About the Book
Beautiful Sophie, with lips as red as blood, skin as pale as snow, and hair as dark as night, is about to come of age and inherit her father’s throne. But Sophie’s stepmother wants rid of her – beautiful she may be, but too weak and foolish to reign. And Sophie believes her, as she believes all the things that have been said about her – all the poisonous words people use to keep girls like her from becoming too powerful, too strong.
When the huntsman carries out his orders of killing Sophie, she finds a fire burning inside her that will not be extinguished, and sets off to reclaim what was taken from her.
Jennifer Donnelly turns her feminist eye to this most delicious of fairy tales and shows Snow White as she’s never been seen before.
About the Author
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of seven novels and a picture book for children. She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.
Jennifer’s first novel, THE TEA ROSE, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called ‘exquisite’ by Booklist, ‘so much fun’ by the Washington Post, a ‘guilty pleasure’ by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times.
Her second novel, A GATHERING LIGHT, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as ‘rich and true’ by The New York Times, the book was named on the Best Book lists of The Times (London), The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the School Library Journal.
REVOLUTION was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Chicago Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.
In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling WATERFIRE saga, an epic series about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil. The first book in the series, DEEP BLUE, was released in May, 2014; the second book, ROGUE WAVE, launched in January 2015.
Jennifer Donnelly lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs.
What I Thought
I love a retelling and this is a doozy with an feminist twist on Snow White.
The writing is divinely fairytalesque and pulls you in no matter whose perspective you are reading from – and there are a number of point of view characters included.
Boy did I empathise with Sophie and her struggle to manage her emotions. This part of the book actually hit me right in the feels. That voice of self criticism at feeling too deeply was all too realistic.
And I loved the addition of the extra layer of villainy, the societal pressure on women to be one way to be successful. The message that there is power in kindness is so important, goodness knows we’ve seen that this year with how Jacinda Arden led New Zealand through the pandemic.
And the seven brothers and their household is A-DOR-A-BULLLLL! Jennifer even got me liking a spider.
With the perfect touch of Grimm’s creepiness, to updating the message for a modern audience this has definitely encouraged me to bump Stepsister up the TBR.
Thank you to Blue at Kaleidoscopic Tours and Hot Key for the gifted copy for the purposes of this honest review. Check out the rest of the tour for some great content.
About the Book
Can you hear the distant dragon’s rumble of thunder? And smell the sweet swampy aroma of the ogre? Can you taste the tangy tarantula tarts? And see the girl who’s really a wizard? From magic carpets and wands to unicorns, potions, creams and lotions, Paul Cookson’s brewing a spell of fantastically magic poems. On this tattered magic carpet You can choose your destination For nothings quite as magical As your imagination
Beautifully illustrated, this enchanting anthology brings together work from a range of classic, established and rising poets including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard, Valerie Bloom, Matt Goodfellow, Joshua Seigal and A.F. Harrold. Whether you’re in the mood for a haunting or a spell gone wrong, this collection of mesmerising poems will have you bewitched from beginning to end!
About the Author
The poems were chosen and compiled by Paul Cookson who also appears as an author.
Paul Cookson lives in Retford with his wife, two children, a dog and several ukuleles. He has worked as a poet since 1989 and has visited thousands of schools and performed to hundreds of thousands of pupils and staff. Paul is the official Poet in Residence for the National Football Museum, the Poetry Ambassador for United Learning and Poet Laureate for Slade. He worked as the Poet for Everton Collection at Liverpool Library, was Poet in Residence for Literacy Times Plus and, as part of the National Year of Reading, was nominated a National Reading Hero and received his award at 10 Downing Street. Paul has 60 titles to his name and poems that appear in over 200 other books. His work has taken him all over the world from Argentina, Uganda and Malaysia to France, Germany and Switzerland.
About the Illustrator
The illustrations are by Eilidh Muldoon a freelance illustrator based in Scotland who gained her MFA from Edinburgh College of Art where she now teaches.
What I Thought
From the silly to the spooky, to the sinister this collection of poems is perfect for the witching season. As with any collection of poems some speak to you more than others but there is an excellent mix included between classic and new poems.
The book itself is stunningly bought to life by the illustrations from Eilidh Muldoon. From its striking pumpkin orange, with black block print, cover to the endpapers and the whimsical illustrations such as this one to illustrate ‘A Cold Spell’.
A few of my favourite poems were:
The silly – I once asked a wizard to make me a sandwich by Graham Denton
The sinister – Ooshus Magooshus by Jason Seigal which warns of Stranger danger
The artistic – Magic Love Potion by Liz Brownlee Shaped like a potion bottle
The cute – The Cool Dragon by Jo Mularczyk reminds me of that John Lewis ad
The classic and the pastiche – Song of the Witches by Shakespeare, and the homage which adds the subtitle (when the internet wasn’t working) by Stan Cullimore
The rhyme and atmosphere made by Witchy Magic by Mary Serenc
If you are at all squeamish you might not like Oh How I Love a Unicorn by Paul Cookson!! So follow it up with How to Cast a Spell if you are Vegetarian by Roger Stevens
The Magic Kitchen Carpet by Paul Cookson that speaks of the immense joy and adventure that our imagination brings.
But I think my top two are This is my Library by Angela Topping and Somewhere in the Library by Stewart Henderson which espouse the magic of books and the cast the librarian as a bewitching creature who is ‘a gatherer of magic and a confidante of elves’.
Thank you to Bloomsbury and Blue at Kaleidoscopic Tours for the copy for the purposes of this honest review. Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour.