There are a few books that I have read in my lifetime, and a handful more since starting my blog that have become instant favourites, because they speak a secret language of my heart, they call to those who never quite entered ‘the age of not believing’ and hold hope for magic and wonder.
Hedgewitch stands proudly with those books and I have deep and wonderful hopes for the series. No pressure Skye!!
If I were to sum it up with pop culture references I would say it’s got the feel and flavour of Stardust with a dash of the danger edged whimsy of Neverending Story meets the gobliny Labyrinth and a dollop of The Apprentice Witch and enrobed in the almost lost lore of these islands from the faer folk to Arthurian legend oh and throw in a dash of 1950s nostalgia without the problematic bits and *chefs kiss* witching girl guides.
I’ve been so inspired by this book I’ve created a Bookbounding collection explored in this post.
Cassie has been left alone at Fowell House, a boarding School for girls since she was 5 years old with a key on a necklace and a promise that her mother will return. But as the years start to tumble into each other she is losing hope especially when her mother is declared dead and Cassie is destined for the orphanage.
Determined to take charge of her destiny she runs away and into the path of child-stealing goblins but is rescued by a battered broomstick and a talking cat who reveals she is a lost member of a witching family.
Upon arriving in Hedgely, Cassie has big shoes to fill as the niece of one of the most important witches in England, but as she learns, and stumbles and tries and fails she finds a place where she belongs- and starts to investigate just what happened to her mother and why the Goblin King is stealing children.
Any girl can learn witchcraft, even if she’s not from a witch family. ‘course some have a knack for it, not that it matters unless you’re a real badge hunter.Rue To Cassie.
For those with magic in their soul, Hedgewitch is a pure delight, and whether a seasoned-in-the-stories wise one or a fledgling there is so much lore wrapped up whether you smile at the little references to so much myth, folklore and the ways or indeed will smile in resonance and memory when you uncover them further in your journey.
From names embroidered with magic from myth, folk tale, literature and pop culture Morgan, Cassandra, Tabitha, Rue, Malkin, Miranda winding between the gentle reworkings of folkish stories and warnings like Jenny Greenteeth reworked to Wendy Weedskin and to echoes of Doreen Valiente’s method of The Ways hidden in plain sight throughout the book like the watchers in the trees.
Passages and sections made me squeal with joy, sigh with contentment at the honouring and even get wobbly enough to cry over that even if it’s just fiction, I am not alone in this folkish myth-rich knowledge of the world and that my unashamedly magically-hearted children will have books that sing to them too.
But one of the most wonderful parts of Hedgewitch is the fact that magic is a skill not a talent; you aren’t a born a witch, you make yourself one.
Across Hedgewitch it makes clear that magic and witchcraft are not innate gifts or blessings or curses from birth, nor passed through bloodlines, it is a learnable skill and whilst some may have the knack more than others, anyone with the determination and will to study can be a witch. And they do this through the most gorgeous of methods- Witchcraft tuition delivered like Girl Guides with meetings, patrols, badges, excursions and annual camp. Oh I would have been in the Coven given my chance!!!
No one is excluded based upon belief system, heritage or prior training, whilst indeed to become a member of the Coven you have to pass a test, these are proficiency tests rather than more arcane skills- ie can you make a potion without blowing the cauldron up!!
This subtle yet groundbreaking choice goes against the grain in many MG witchy fantasies where magic is essentially a superpower handed out to a select few, often passed down generationally and often hoarded by one social group or another. Here no one is excluded, and importantly whilst deeply grounded in the folklore of these islands, you don’t have to be ancestrally linked to the land to belong, to access, to be a witch. And that is a beautiful choice that speaks just as much as the choice for diversity in the characters.
Cassie followed Rue up the narrow path, bracken fern brushing her legs and catching on her stockings. She lifted her face to the green-gold light that filtered through the canopy.
Then there’s the earthy sensory experience throughout from the scent of hyacinths to the seasonal flowers to even the quality of light that evokes both time and space and is an utter love letter to the natural world.
The dappling of light and clusters of fungi and carpet of bracken immerses us in the rural world of Hedgely and forays into the Hedge reflects the sense of Mirabilis (edge of wonder) that is in the experience of a wild natural space.
I laughed out loud in empathy when Cassie is told plainly to fetch a hen- having chased my share, I know that exasperated feeling when you just need to grab a chicken who is NOT having it- thank goodness our current flock are softies and will sit to be picked up.
‘Oh my gooses and ganders! Here she is, here she is at last?’
Before she’d even reached the ground, Cassie found herself engulfed in a great bear hug that crushed the air out of her. Her assailant smelled of gingerbread, which would be lovely if Cassie could breathe.Cassie arrives at Hartwood Hall to be met by Mrs Briggs
The characters are a sheer delight, you feel a sense of belonging and knowing as soon as you meet them from the lovely but bold Cassie, the kind and dainty Tabitha, the heart of gold if a little rough around the edges Rue and the anxiety-ridden and rude perfectionist Ivy (Gilmore Girls fans will recognise Paris in her!!) who just wants to be the best- but maybe not for the reason you think.
Even to minor and adult characters like Mrs Briggs, Brogan and Miranda, each has a rich tapestry of characterisation, they are not one dimensional props to stand in the background of Cassie’s adventures, you can almost smell the onion layers waiting to be peeled back to the core and to discover more over subsequent books.
The way to Faerie is paved with thorns…even the Hedgewitch does not cross the border.Montague
Hedgewitch is one of those books that I cant quite capture all the magic and the wonder in even though I try really hard, that’s usually a sign of a book that wrapped around my soul. I channeled some of that feeling into my Bookbounding collection, the research, love and care maybe touches upon how deeply this book has touched my heart
I know it will do so for children too as after reading it myself, I read it aloud to Tinyfae at bedtimes and you could see her eyes and heart filling up with wonder and recognition of other stories and folktales, I could have cried with joy when she said ‘OH NO NOT a Jenny Greenteeth!!!’ when Cassie encountered Wendy Weedskin and when she captured and felt the emotions of the characters throughout, its a deeply magical and immersive experience for young readers and 100% worth the hardback which is BEAUTIFUL.
Please give this book a try, and please check out the stops on the blog tour maybe even my own- this is a bonus review because… hey, I’m nothing if not extra!!
Hedgewitch. by Skye McKenna is published by Welbeck Flame- Welbeck Childrens Books.
Thank you for my copies 💜