Title: The Wickerlight (The Wren Hunt #2)
Author: Mary Watson
Published: July 2019
Readership: Young Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
I received a copy of The Wickerlight from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
An eerie, magical thriller from the author of The Wren Hunt, perfect for fans of Frances Hardinge and Emily Bain Murphy’s The Disappearances
Zara’s family moved to Kilshamble for a new beginning. But everything changed the night her sister was found dead on the village green.
Two months later, Laila’s death is a riddle that nobody wants solved. Where were her injuries? Why was she so obsessed with local folklore? And what does all this have to do with David, the boy who lives at the big house?
As Zara delves deeper into her sister’s secret life, she becomes entangled in an ancient magical feud. All too unwittingly she is treading the same dangerous path that led Laila to the village green …
Every now and then you end up with a book that you know absolutely nothing about… only to discover it’s the second book in a series. The dilemma then becomes do you read the first book in order to read the second or just dive in (and I’ve done both on different occasions). That was my introduction to The Wickerlight by Mary Watson – I received it, unsolicited, from the publisher and was deeply intrigued by the cover and the synopsis, but made the decision to read the first book, The Wren Hunt before picking this one up (which is why it’s taken me so long to actually read it.)
I’m glad I read the first book, but I can confidently say that The Wickerlight is my favourite of the two books.
The premise is as follows: Zara and her family moved to Kilshamble, a small town outside of the city, in order to put their lives back together, only to have tragedy strike when her sister is found dead in the village green. Our story begins two months later, with Zara questioning the manner of her sister’s death, while the rest of her family tries to cope, and uncovers the secrets of the town her sister was investigating before her death. This leads her to David, the son of a local family who has ties to the land and in striking up a friendship with him, Zara finds herself drawn into an old feud, fuelled by magic, that threatens to entrap her as well.
I want to start off by saying that I read The Wren Hunt a few days before beginning The Wickerlight and while it was an alright read, I struggled to connect with the main characters of that particular story. As a result, I was concerned about beginning The Wickerlight, as David – one of the main POV characters in the book – was one of the antagonists in the first book. I do think it’s necessary to read the first book – there are a lot of references to events, people and places from the first book and what didn’t make sense to me reading The Wren Hunt actually became cleared in The Wickerlight.
I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong. I really enjoyed reading from both Zara and David’s perspectives in The Wickerlight. Zara is an outsider who has little understanding of the town, it’s magical history, and the feud between the two groups of people vying for magical and political power. We are reintroduced to these elements through her eyes and it was a lot easier to slip into the narrative and the world as a result. David’s perspective was really useful for examining what it’s like to live in the world with the knowledge of magic and the old rivalries while he also begins to question his place in it. Both of them have tragic histories and no reason to trust one another but through their initial meeting and subsequent relationship, they begin to rebuild the way they view the world and the people around them.
I also liked that this was as much a mystery as it was a fantasy book. (Although it feels more urban fantasy to me, personally, because the world itself is essentially ours, with its folklore expanded.) Zara is determined to uncover the truth about her sister’s death regardless of the cost and even when she begins to uncover the overwhelming truth, she persists and follows through on her actions. Likewise, she sees the truth in David and is determined to help him, as much as she helps herself.
This definitely had a creepy-small-town vibe going on that added depth to the atmosphere. There’s just something disturbing about everyone knowing everything about everyone else while the newcomers (Zara and her family) are none-the-wiser to what’s actually going on around them.
I’m very glad I read The Wickerlight. It’s not something I would have picked up on my own but it was an enjoyable and atmospheric young adult story.