I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read an early copy of this from the publishers on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.
Witch, written and illustrated by Finbar Hawkins.
Witches and the witch trials of the seventeenth century feel like a hot topic recently, and it would be easy to allow a sense of ennui set in…if it weren’t for how different the books I’ve read or heard of all are.
And this is an excellent example of that – telling the story of Evey and her sister Dill, it blends historical fact with fantasy, stunning art with beautiful prose.
Written from Evey’s perspective, the writing can take a little adjusting to, but it has a real historical feel. While I am emphatically not a historian so have no frame of reference as to its accuracy, it certainly has the feel of being from another time long past and really helps transport you to the time.
It also has a real poetry about it, both in its structure and phrasing, and in its use of imagery, symbolism and language. This is beautifully matched by the artwork in the book – detailed sketches of the natural world which add atmosphere and which I found myself pausing to study at the start of each chapter.
However, while it is undoubtedly beautiful, it is also unflinching in its confrontation of the witch hunts and trials.
The start of the book really sets the tone as, along with Evey (Eveline of the Birds to give her her full title) and little sister Dill, we witness the brutal beating and murder of their mother. It is a scene that takes your breath away and one that will haunt me, as it haunts Evey throughout the book.
Her mother’s dying wish is for Evey and Dill to find her somewhat estranged sister in a nearby coven. They make their way their, with Evey vowing vengeance and after leaving Dill in their care, she embarks on a mission to hunt the hunters.
And so behind a tale rich in nature and ‘magick’, is a darker tale of betrayal, revenge and over-powering emotions – predominantly love, anger and grief.
Sibling relations also feature strongly, with the complicated and often conflicting emotions and instincts they involve closely examined and sensitively drawn.
This is also a story of human nature. Of mob rule, the power of a crowd and our ability to quickly forget those who have helped us to suit our current needs.
I really liked the way elements of fantasy and magic were brought in, and the way they were SO closely linked with nature. The scene with the crows in particular was vivid and wondrous, despite its violence, and I could not look away.
This was a short but powerful read, written with a unique and compelling voice. I have ordered the finished, physical book and will be keeping my eyes out for whatever Finbar Hawkins does next.