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Witch by Finbar Hawkins – Review

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

Phot credit: Gavin Strange

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.

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly – Blog Tour Book Review

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.

Follow Jennifer:

Website: http://www.jenniferdonnelly.com

Twitter: http://twitter.comJenWritesBooks

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.

Witch by Finbar Hawkins – Blog Tour – Publishing Journey Guest Post

I’m delighted to host a guest post from debut author Finbar Hawkins about his publishing journey for Witch. This is a powerful tale of revenge, grief and sisterhood and is perfect for Halloween week. Later in the week I’ll share my full review but for now I’ll hand over to Finbar.

Photo credit: Gavin Strange

My Publishing Journey

I’ve always written, but even with seeing ‘Witch’ out on the shelves, I still have difficulty describing myself as a writer. It’s not so much self-doubt, I think it more springs from each new thing you write feels like starting again, finding out how to write again. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the feeling, and to be honest I feel it’s a good spur, a jab of the heels to keep me coming back to the blank page.

My route to publishing started with the Arvon Foundation. I had never experienced a writing workshop before, working on exercises to approach character, setting and emotion. The writing samples I brought with me were little short film ideas, so I wasn’t even writing prose at that time. But it was through a number of exercises in class, under our tutor Lucy Christopher’s guidance, that the beginnings of a story emerged, and I kept going through that amazing week and into the months beyond. Lucy is a lecturer at Bath Spa (now the Course Director!) and she had encouraged me (along with a number of my Arvon compadres) to apply. Through early morning starts before children were awake and work, the story that I started had now grown into approximately 30k. But I craved feedback, more of what I had experienced at Arvon – critical feedback from other writers.

I was delighted to get a place on Bath Spa, because over those two years part-time I started to write properly around critical workshops. And the thing is about workshops is that you have to raise your game – you’re delivering to a little audience, and you’re going to be hearing other people’s work, giving your own thoughts on it.  I also learnt that giving a critique is just as important for writing, because you’re looking at the craft all the time, your training that writing muscle.

I decided to park the ms I had been working on since Arvon because in that first term, Witch came bowling along and demanded to be told. The workshop was integral again, because I had a very good set of notes from a group of other writers – who wanted to know what happened next. I was immensely interested also in the challenge of writing from a young woman’s perspective.

The core of the MA is about working on and delivering your ms, and from there we all then work on putting together an Anthology to showcase our work for a launch event in London. Agents and editors are invited along to this terrifying and exhilarating evening. There I met Catherine Pellegrino of Marjacq Scripts who had read and liked my anthology extract. 

I knew Catherine was the agent for me, because she pushed me to make the ms as good as it possibly could be. So we set to work, and over several drafts pushed and pulled Witch into submission shape. I would stress that there is no real time frame for this, and you shouldn’t feel rushed. Let the ms ‘bake’ in between drafts, write other bits and pieces and then go through it taking notes. It will all be much the better for it.

Finally we both felt that Witch was ready to fly. And at the end of an excruciating week waiting to hear back from editors, it was Fiona Kennedy at Zephyr who from the outset pretty much demanded my book should be published by her.  There were other others in the frame, but because of Fiona’s incredible passion for Witch, I knew I had found the right home. 

My publishing journey has all been about some fundamental things – you need to take that first jump and put your writing in front of a critical audience (it’s hard, but you’ll get used to it); you need to trust your instincts when meeting agents and editors; you need to take your time; and you need to remember to enjoy it!

WITCH by Finbar Hawkins is out now in hardback (£12.99, Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus)

Follow Finbar Hawkins @finbar_hawkins and find out more finbarhawkins.com

#WITCH

I’m not going to lie I’ve been eyeing up both the Arvon Foundation courses and the Bath Spa MA for years and like Evey’s jealously of sister Dill I must try and keep my green eyed monster in check. Maybe one day!

Huge Congratulations to Finbar on a wonderful debut. Come back on Wednesday for my full review and do check out the rest of the posts on the tour running this week.

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