The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson
|The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Beautifully-written contemporary fantasy thriller, using Irish myths and traditions to wonderful effect. A fabulous and highly original debut from Mary Watson.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: February 2018|
|External links: Author's website|
Every year on St Stephens Day, Wren Silke is chased through the forest in a warped version of a childhood game. Her pursuers are Judges - a group of powerful and frightening boys who know nothing of her true identity. If they knew she was an Augur - their sworn enemy - the game would be up.
The Wren Hunt is set in a contemporary Ireland where the ancient druidic traditions are still in play. The Judges have dominated the Augurs by buying up the land containing the sources of Augur power. The Augurs can feel their magic depleting and are determined to win it back. To this end, Wren has been chosen to infiltrate the house of the prominent Judge, Cassa Harkness, to find the information they need. To succeed, she will need to hide her Augur talent, avoid David and the other Wren boys, and tamp down her growing attraction to the mysterious Tarc. It's dangerous but Wren owes so much to her Augur family after her mother ran away and left her that she feels it's her obligation. Can she succeed? Or is war coming?
Well, um, oh my goodness! There is so much to like in The Wren Hunt. First up, it is beautifully written without a clunky word or sentence in sight. It manages to be subtle, lyrical, eerie and magical without ever being elaborate or pretentious. I lost myself in this book, I really did, and that is in large part due to the sheer quality of the writing. It's a very clever thriller - I'd got halfway through before I really understood that I wasn't so much reading a fantasy novel with a bit of mystery attached; I was reading a carefully-crafted, top notch thriller. Neither is The Wren Hunt a love story with some fantasy motifs, although there is a love story inside it. And this lack of shoe-horning made the romance all the sweeter. Great respect is given to the myths and ancient traditions of Ireland - Wren Day is a real Boxing Day tradition in Ireland and you can see how much care has gone into Watson's reimagining of it for her novel.
Have I gushed enough yet? Well, have some more. You'll love Wren, who is conflicted about so many things but who has grit and determination, a real moral compass and a fabulously smart mouth. I spent most of the book hoping and praying that she would come to see her talent, the spinney eye, as a gift and not a curse. Some of the supporting cast are mysterious and you never quite manage to catch them, others are open and honest, and some let you down just when you are least expecting it. But all are fully-rounded people.
There's a heady mix of the real and the magical in The Wren Hunt and I completely fell under its spell. A clever, wonderful, evocative novel, and I don't have a single, even luke warm, criticism to make.
If stories using tropes from Irish myth and legend appeal to you, you might also enjoy The Call by Peadar o Guilin, set in a dystopian near future in which the Aes Sidhe have placed a magical seal around the entire island of Ireland.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.