Monday, October 15, 2018

Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan, 2018

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On the night that Aunty dies the Raggedy Witches come for Mup's mam. Pale, cold, relentless, they will do anything to coax Mam back to Witches Borough. When they kidnap Mup's dad, Mup and her mam must leave the mundane world to rescue him. But everything is odd in the strange, glittery Witches Borough, even Mam. Even Mup herself. In a world of rhyming crows, talking cats, and golden forests, it's all Mup can do to keep her wits about her. And even if she can save her dad, Mup's not sure if anything will ever be the same again. First in a new trilogy by Irish author Celine Kiernan, this tale of family and forbidden magic charts a fresh path through the landscape of beloved fantasy tradition–and promises to bewitch any reader in search of stories to love.
(288 pages)

I used to gulp down books by the dozen about girls who discover their family has secret ties to a fantasy realm and they have to go on some sort of quest in it. You know the type: there's usually a unicorn involved, and/or a couple of fairies or other fantastic creatures, and someone is always related to royalty.

Begone the Raggedy Witches uses some of these tropes, but plays with them so much that they're nearly unrecognizable. I really love the fact that Mup's mother is the "special one," rather than Mup herself being it. For most of the story Mup is basically a distraction/side character on her mother's quest. That sounds like it would be boring, but it's not. Because Mup's innocent, childish observation of the strife in Witches Borough, and her mother's role in returning to save her husband, is a wonderful way to lighten what could have very easily turned into a depressingly dark book.

It's still quite dark in places, with some death and discussion of child abandonment and questions about what it means to be family. Mup's aunt died right before the book began, but her ghost accompanies the family on much of its quest; Mup sees the moral conflict that her aunt's decision to run away from home entailed, as she saved herself and her sister but left the rest of her friends and people behind to face her mother's wrath.

There are people who can turn into animals and men who are forced to say everything in rhyme, and the magical world is just so interesting and miserable at the same time that I was fascinated by it. Even when the story veered into predictable territory (as it did, essentially, follow the pattern left by many books before it), it did so in a way that was still novel and intriguing.

All in all, Begone the Raggedy Witches is an interesting new story that I enjoyed reading (even when it got rather dark). I'm looking forward to continuing the trilogy!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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