A Hunger of Thorns by Lili Wilkinson (Young Adult Fantasy)

A Hunger of Thorns
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Published: April 18, 2023
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $24.99

I received a copy of A Hunger of Thorns from the publishers for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Maude is the daughter of witches. She spent her childhood running wild with her best friend, Odette, weaving stories of girls who slayed dragons and saved princes. Then Maude grew up and lost her magic – and her best friend. Storytelling is her only gift that remains.
Odette always hungered for forbidden, dangerous magic, and two weeks ago she went searching for it. Now she’s missing, and everyone believes she’s dead. Everyone except Maude.
Maude is sure she can find Odette inside the ruins of Sicklehurst, an abandoned power plant built over an ancient magical forest –a place nobody else seems to remember is there. The danger is, nobody knows what remains inside Sicklehurst, either. And every good story is sure to have a monster …

A Hunger of Thorns is a gorgeous, dark young adult fantasy that’s full of magic, monsters and plants.

When her former best friend goes missing while in search of magic, Maude is forced to confront the world she knows, her past, her mother’s treason and the secrets the town has desperately tried to hide. While investigating the abandoned power plant – a place the town has forgotten, Maude realises that something sinister lurks within the grounds and that her past is the key to not only finding Odette, but unravelling the mystery of magic in the town.

Lili Wilkinson has crafted a really well-rounded young adult fantasy story that weaves chaotic, feral girl gangs, wild magic and town secrets into a really compelling story. Maude is an interesting narrator for the story because she doesn’t quite know everything that’s going on and is still dealing with the grief of being estranged from her best friend (and the girl she longs for) and losing her magic and living in a world where magic – and women, who seem to be able to manipulate the magic most readily – and constrained by rules designed to keep them in line.

The magic in the story is wild and intrinsically linked to life and nature (which we learn more about as the story progresses) and there’s definite creepy undertones as the setting becomes an integral character to the plot. Sicklehurst, the abandoned power plant, is more than what it seems and the magic hidden away in the grounds is both fascinating and disturbing at each turn.

There’s a really cool element of storytelling – something Maude is still great at, despite losing her tangible magic – and is integral to what’s happening and the characters we meet throughout the book. Similarly, the complex friendship dynamics between Maude and Odette, and Maude and the other side characters, highlight that everyone views their relationships in different ways based on experiences and that communication really is important (even when it seems hard).

I loved the queer representation in the story – Maude lives with her two grandmothers who love her deeply, but are also entrenched in the town’s secrets, and Maude herself is in love with Odette. There’s no romance in the story, but rather a deep-seated longing that drives all of Maude’s motivations.

It was a great book, and a wonderful reading experience, with each new secret revealing more mysteries and driving the narrative forward. It’s a standalone fantasy, perfect for fans of books like We Who Hunt the Hollow.

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