The magical adventures that began in Skye McKenna’s debut Hedgewitch continue in Woodwitch, another engaging story, deep-rooted – in the best way – in classic fantasy adventures from The Worst Witch to the Chronicles of Narnia. Trainee witch Cassie is living in the village of Hedgely with her aunt who, as Hedgewitch, is responsible for keeping the villagers protected from the Faerie folk who live in the Hedge, an enchanted forest that borders the human and magic worlds. Her skills at riding her broomstick Tantivy and at brewing spells are improving but, mostly educated at a London boarding school, she still trails behind her friends Rue and Tabitha, not to mention Ivy, always top of the class. Cassie does have something in common with Ivy however: both their mothers are absent. Cassie’s is lost somewhere in the Hedge, Ivy’s in an enchanted sleep. Their different efforts to bring their mothers back draw them both to the Hedge and often into all sorts of danger. Meanwhile, there are related threats to the people of Hedgely from their magic neighbours, with villagers falling under the spell of the wicked Erl King’s minions, even Cassie’s irritating cousin Sebastian.
McKenna successfully weaves magic and mystery, family and friendships into a bewitching story, her descriptions of the herbs, plants and trees of the British countryside adding a particularly pleasing extra element. She has a proper appreciation too of the importance of food in this kind of adventure and Cassie’s aunt’s housekeeper Mrs Briggs (who we learn is hundreds of years old) is a marvel at baking, while the variety of delicious teas on offer in Hedgely seems almost never-ending. The cosiness provides an important balance to the real dangers faced by Cassie and her friends as they encounter the inhabitants of the Hedge, some of whom are very nasty indeed. There’s at least one more adventure to come, and I look forward to it.