Hedgewitch by Skye McKenna children’s fantasy book reviewsHedgewitch by Skye McKenna children’s fantasy book reviewsHedgewitch by Skye McKenna

Have you ever read a book in which the plot and characterization are best described as “fun but not special” only to completely fall in love with the world in which they’re set? In this case, there’s nothing wrong with the story of Hedgewitch (even if it hews a little too closely to the HARRY POTTER formula for its first few chapters: a magically-gifted child escapes a terrible environment with the help of a flying broomstick and a talking cat) but the construction and ambiance of the setting is just intoxicating.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so fully immersed in the atmosphere of a book, and this one introduces readers to a small English village called Hedgely. Filled with quaint teahouses, dusty antique stories, ancient cemeteries, tiny cottages, and shops with names like “Marchpane’s” and “Widdershin’s,” the community is situated on the edge of a mysterious forest containing a series of weirstones that form the boundary between this world and the realms of Faerie. It very much put me in mind of the village of Wall in Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.

I could have wandered there for hours, so I hate to continue pointing out the HARRY POTTER parallels: much like the boy wizard himself, Cassie Morgan’s initiation into the world of magic is combined with a mystery only she can solve – in this case, the ongoing disappearances of several children, not to mention what happened to her mother eight years ago, when Cassie was abandoned at her dreary boarding school.

On finally escaping, she discovers that her Aunt Miranda (her mother’s sister) is what’s known as the Hedgewitch: the powerful guardian who’s responsible for monitoring any movements between the denizens of Faerie and the human world. Once Cassie is safely ensconced in Miranda’s home (filled with moving bedrooms, a secret library, and a tree that grows in the entrance hall) she begins her niece’s lessons in witchcraft.

Naturally Cassie meets a range of friends and rivals, from fellow coven-members Rue and Tabitha (perfect witch names, though I had to roll my eyes at the inevitable inclusion of Ivy, the catty overachiever) to the live-in staff at Aunt Miranda’s cottage (every house like hers needs a full-time cook who can rustle up any number of delicious snacks at a moment’s notice).

The superficial comparisons to HARRY POTTER may continue (one of the adults in a position of authority is a traitor working the system from the inside, a male relative appears out of nowhere to gift Cassie with a superior broomstick) but the real charm of the book is in its old-world setting and the narrative seeds that are being carefully sown across the pages. This is apparently planned as a five-book series, and you can tell that a much large story is taking shape, especially regarding the threat of the Erl-King and the mystery of Cassie’s mother.

McKenna’s portrayal of Faerie is everything it should be: beautiful, dangerous, mysterious and enticing. J.K. Rowling’s use of magic was always a little too cartoonish for my liking, but here it’s rightfully depicted as deep and strange and unknowable. Between the stark beauty of Faerie and the cozy warmth of Hedgley, I was in reading heaven. It would be a perfect book for the autumn months, preferably with a hot drink and a warm seat by the fire.

Published in April 2022. When Cassie runs away from her dreary boarding school, in search of her missing mother, she ends up in the magical village of Hedgely and discovers she comes from a family of witches – women who protect Britain from the denizens of Faerie, who are all too real and far more frightening than the story books suggest. First in a magical five-book series for readers of Nevermoor, The Worst Witch and The Dark Is Rising. It has been seven years since Cassie Morgan last saw her mother. Left at a dreary boarding school, she spends her days hiding from the school bully and reading forbidden story books about the world of Faerie Certain that her mother is still alive, Cassie is determined to find her, whatever the dangers, and runs away from school. Lost and alone, she is chased by a pack of goblins but, to her surprise, escapes with the help of a flying broom and a talking cat named Montague, who takes her to the cosy village of Hedgely. Here she discovers that she comes from a family of witches, women who protect Britain from the denizens of Faerie, who are all too real and far more frightening than her story books suggest.


  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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