Witch by Finbar Hawkins

Posted On 1 October 2020

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WitchMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Beautiful, brutal, tale of revenge

Witch is an unusual story set in a particularly frightening period of history when women and children were taken from their homes and brutalised on the most flimsy of pretexts.  

I will start this review just by mentioning that there will be triggers for some readers amongst these pages, the opening chapters in fact contain the murder of Evey and Dill’s mother and being set in a time of civil war definitely gives this book a feeling of things being on a knife edge, like bloody violence is a real possibility that could erupt with almost any turn of the page.  This isn’t a sweet, or Disney style take on witches so be aware.

As the story begins, as mentioned, Dill and Evey witness (from afar) the murder of their mother at the hands of men accusing her of witchcraft.  The two girls run and hide and their mother makes Evey promise to take her little sister to their aunt for safety’s sake.  Evey is hellbent on revenge, consumed by the need for it in fact and this is the fuel for the majority of the story.

In terms of plot, well this really is as simple as I’ve mentioned above.  This is a tale of one girl’s determination to avenge her dead mother.  Of course there are ups and downs, mistakes and mishaps along the way, usually driven by Evey’s lack of planning or impulsive and often times reckless behaviour.  

The characters.  Evey is an angry young woman.  She’s angry about her mother’s death, she’s angry at her newfound responsibility, she’s angry that her mother seemed to favour Dill to such an extent that she left her scrying stone to Dill instead of her.  There’s a complexity of emotions running amok, anger, jealousy, resentment, sorrow, and this makes Evey a difficult and complex character.  I liked that she could be sometimes annoying, it lends her the cloak of reality.  Dill is the sweet younger sister.  She’s much more measured and self assured.  She has an affinity with animals and seems to be more like her mother than Evey.  We have another character called Anne, daughter to a nobleman Anne carried a lot of sorrow which makes her desire to help Evey a littler easier to understand.  There is perhaps an element of ‘insta-friendship’ going on here but I went with it given the element of sadness that both characters shared.

Without doubt, for me, the winning element of this book is also maybe the element that will put some readers off – the style of writing.  It’s beautiful, lyrical, haunting, atmospheric and simple.  It seems to capture the time and voice of the period and I loved reading it.  It’s also a strange counterbalance to the violence it depicts, it’s as though I was enjoying the author’s style so much that it sometimes belied the events unfolding on the page.  It feels old fashioned and yet accessible.  I think it maybe took me a few pages to get into the style but then I was pretty much swept away and I read the book in one sitting, unable to put it down.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing major.  The fantasy elements only really come into play during the last few chapters, up to that point this could be a historical novel depicting a period where women were persecuted for being strong or resourceful.  I think the plot is very simple, but, again, I didn’t find this a problem as I was enjoying the way in which the story is told more than the drama of what was taking place. 

In conclusion, I enjoyed Witch.  I would say that it was quite different from what I was expecting – and I’m not sure why that is, perhaps the cover (which I love by the way) maybe led me to think this would be a much lighter take on witches when the reality is quite the opposite. A beautifully grim depiction of harsh times and the strength found in friendship and sisterhood.  

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars