Tim Tilley’s previous book, Harklights, about a boy who looks after a hobgoblin baby that he found in an acorn shell, was the Winner of the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize and was shortlisted for Bookfest’s Big Book Award, 2022. This book also has a magical theme, as young Will, a sensitive lad who enjoys baking, tries to find out why his mother has suddenly disappeared. The family are descendants of Lori Knight, who had helped a famous witch, Agatha Crow, to escape from witch hunters centuries ago, and his mother has taught Will Agatha’s song about buried treasure, which no-one has ever found. Did his mother find a clue that led to her disappearance?
With the help of his aunt, Hera, a feisty archaeologist, and a young witch called Magda who arrives unintentionally, Will leads the hunt for his mother, and finds that he has more courage than he had thought. Although the female characters are useful and equally brave, it’s usually Will who comes up with ideas for escape, or tactics for the rescue of his mother from the clutches of Hildreth, the evil chief witch. Hildreth is also looking for Agatha’s treasure, as it will bring him power, and he plans to flood the Fens with a mighty storm to restore the damage humans have done. The Fens are home and a source of income to lots of people, including Will’s family, and shelter for the wildlife he knows and loves. This extreme re-wilding would be disastrous, as would the plan by the father of one of his friends to build houses on the West Meadow – there is very much a conservation theme here, too. Of course, all is well by the end, and it’s a good story.
Tim Tilley is the illustrator as well as the author. His quirky illustrations are profusely spread throughout the book, and will certainly add to reading pleasure.