I’ve been dying to read Mary Watson’s The Wickerlight ever since I saw the cover reveal on Twitter. The novel follows on from The Wren Hunt, which I reviewed last year. If it was anything as dreamy and atmospheric as the first book, I knew I had to read it.
When I realised that the novel would focus on David, the ‘ bad guy’ from the first book, I was dubious. But then I had to remind myself that this was Mary Watson, Caine Prize winner and one of the Africa39 list of young African writers that define trends in African literature.
There was never any reason to worry. The Wickerlight is breathtakingly beautiful.
The novel takes readers back to the Irish village of Kilshamble. The augurs are still waging their ancient war against the judges. All the characters from the first novel are still in play, only this time the reader gets to experience a different side of this world through the eyes of Zara, a seventeen-year-old girl trying to unravel the mystery surrounding her sister’s death.
Zara finds a kindred spirit in David, who is facing his own demons. Together they tumble into the inky blackness to face what’s coming.
Yes, Wren’s story is done for now, but only because it’s Zara and David’s turn. I didn’t want to love David, but wow, I tumbled into his world headfirst and I couldn’t help but fall for him. You have to applaud the author for taking a dark horse from one book and making him the hero of another.
I adored the high stakes romance – it reminded me of the soul mates in L.J. Smith’s Night World series that essentially defined my teenage years. The Wickerlight also put me in mind of another blast from the past, Mary’s award-winning collection of short stories, Moss. Many of the stories in the collection explore the intimate dramas that take place behind closed doors. Inviting the reader into Zara and David’s private lives to see their struggles firsthand added another layer of richness to an already bubbling plot, and brought the characters to life.
I was completely swallowed whole. This book twists its vines around you, sinking into your skin and works like a magic spell that swirls around your head even after you’ve stopped reading.
Love, check. Dreamy lyrical prose, check. Believable characters, check. Ancient forest magic, check. Warring families, check. High stakes, double-check.
The Wickerlight is a beautifully written magical murder mystery with a breathlessly romantic subplot. It’s action-packed and twisty, and will leave you wanting more. And more, And more. Bring on book three.
Win a copy of The Wickerlight
Win your own copy of The Wickerlight. Simply mail me your details and the answer to this question: What was the name of Mary’s short story that won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2006?
Courtesy of Jonathan Ball Publishers, the South African distributors of The Wickeright. Competition ends 16 August. South African entries only.