By Author / Illustrator
Andersen Press Ltd
Bea has started to hear and see things that no one else can - creatures, voices, visions. Then strangers visit Bea and tell her she is different: she has the rare powers of a witch. They warn her she is being hunted. Her parents think she is hallucinating and needs help. All Bea wants to do is get on with her life, and to get closer to Lars, the mysterious young man she has met at the skate park. But her life is in danger, and she must break free. The question is - who can she trust?Carnegie Medal-winner Melvin Burgess returns with a powerful, thrilling fantasy for young adults about magic, myth and following your instincts.
In an interview for the Northern YA literary festival Melvin Burgess was asked to describe his new novel in five words. He decided upon 'adventures in the spirit world' but The Lost Witch has fathomless depths. Burgess is an extraordinarily sensory writer. Reading this book is like a mindfulness walk where your inner noise is switched off and replaced with in depth perception. As adolescent protagonist Bea slowly awakens to her latent magical powers, which will place her in mortal danger, the text radiates with beauty as she observes every single detail of the life shimmering around her. 'Above her head, a billion tiny drops of water hung on the edges of the leaves, on twigs, and buds, seeds and fruit. The drop quivered, and all around it the water fractured the light; rays of it bouncing about inside, outside, everywhere. She looked closer and saw that the droplet was full of life - tiny creatures living their whole lives out in that tiny bauble of water.' The dreamlike prose is just part of this remarkable book which can be compared to immersing yourself in one of Burgess's magical raindrops. The membrane captures the appearance of 'the Second World' to the naive 13-year-old Bea, who is both attracted and repelled by what she discovers. She fears she is losing her sanity. In an attempt to block out a bombardment of strange happenings she concentrates on the release skateboarding gives her. This brings her into contact with the charismatic and magnetic Lars and she longs to be part of his dazzling orbit. Competing for her attention is the persistent Silvis, a mysterious 10 year old who will not stop badgering her about what she has seen. She is determined to arrange a meeting between Bea, her all seeing grandfather Odi and the Salem Row Witches. Inside the droplet Burgess adds the intertextuality of shape-shifting Norse mythology and dark fairy tales as Bea grows increasingly bewildered, bothered and frightened by her supernatural abilities. The evil Hunt want to drain her essence [intimations of The Dark Crystal] and she doesn't know whom to trust. Can she make the right choice? Themes of friendship and loyalty, bonds of magic and fellowship,family secrets and the power of memories form the jewel like centre where the spirit dwells while the force which breaks it apart is reserved for a universal theme - an abusive and manipulative relationship. This is exacerbated by the damage caused by battle fatigue, drug induced hallucination, isolation and the blurring of moral boundaries. The Lost Witch is a strong novel with vivid characterisation, red flags about the dangers of grooming for teens and a slow burning fuse which fizzles away with pincer like moments of tension and fear leading up to an explosive finale. It is aimed at the YA market but ultimately it is a satisfying book for readers who enjoy witchcraft narratives and fantastical myths with a dark underbelly of social realism and a piercing insight into the harsh realities of war. 336 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Tanja Jennings, school librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 11+