The Wickerlight is the second book in Mary Watson’s The Wren Hunt series for young adults. In the first book, the protagonist Wren is chased and taunted by a few boys in the woods around Kilshamble, the village where they all live. Set in modern day Ireland, but one in which magic is as real to the novel’s characters as social media, the next instalment in the series picks up the story of one of these boys, David. He is a member of the judges, one of the ancient draoithe clans. Their sworn enemy for centuries are the augurs.
When a new family settles in Kilshamble and the older daughter Laila dies under mysterious circumstances on the village green, the judges and the augurs are set for another confrontation. Laila’s sister Zara tries to unravel the puzzling clues she receives about her sister’s death. Grieving and desperate to find out what happened, she stumbles into a world of magic that is beyond her comprehension and control. Falling in love with David puts her at the centre of the merciless battle for power between the draoithe clans. She enters a “new real, with its beating intensity”, which proves impossible to resist.
Through her spellbinding storytelling, Watson not only reveals a moving tale of love and redemption, but tackles a serious contemporary issue: toxic masculinity, how it is instilled into young minds and souls, and how difficult it is to live with for all concerned. David worries how he is drilled to believe “that strength and ambition are more important than kindness. That feelings are something to be overcome.” It will take great courage to break free from those shackles.
‘Wickerlight’ is defined as threshold time, like stepping “into pure magic”. It is exactly what reading Watson’s novels feels like.
by Mary Watson
An edited version of this review was published in the Cape Times on 8 August 2019.