By Marcus Sedgwick, published by Orion.
Goodreads synopsis: At first, Jamie isn’t too worried about the bad dreams he’s been having since coming to his aunt’s house. Most people awoken in the middle of the night to find their house burning down would probably have nightmares, too. But instead of fire, he keeps dreaming of a “horrible, scary old woman,” relentlessly coming after him for some awful, inexplicable purpose. Even though he’s come to Aunt Jane’s to recover from the fire’s aftermath, he doesn’t want to bother her or his cousin Alison with his silly fears. He can see that they are very busy with their village’s community service project–cleaning off an age-old carving on the side of hill that overlooks the town. But when the carving turns out to be a peculiar primordial figure instead of the “crown” that the people of Crownshill expected to see, and Jamie uncovers evidence of an ancient witchcraft trial in local history papers, he is swept into a centuries-old mystery to which he unwittingly has the key. Who is the old crone chasing him, and what does she want? Jamie will have to endure an experience worse than fire to find out.
My review: This will be a kinda short review, (short as in a couple less paragraphs than usual. Still pretty long.) as I can’t really say much about the story without ruining it- it’s really short!
When I picked up this pretty small Marcus Sedgwick tale for an evening scare, I was only expecting a moderately spooky tale told in a basic plot. However, I got a heck of a lot more than that! The ghost story was spine-chilling and pretty freaky; a witch woman, wandering this old historical hill and entering people’s dreams… ahh! I really loved the realistic historic research behind the ghostly tale. Then, we had the tie-in with the fire that destroyed Jamie, the protagonist’s, home. I think that the way the two stories combined was really clever, and also quite haunting.
The plot was pretty epic, and quite layered for a book that wasn’t even two hundred pages. It included witchcraft, a destroyed family, haunting, and a discovery of an ancient event. The events were really great; and flowed very well in my opinion. There were a lot of shocks in store, and I really liked where the story went. There really wasn’t a boring moment, and I devoured it pretty quickly because it was just so brilliantly written. After every chapter (I think) there was a short paragraph of a historical account, or piece of information on the Witch, followed by a beautiful, abstract illustration by the author. It was really enjoyable.
Jamie was a very likeable protagonist. As soon as I met him- as he woke up from a nightmare- I instantly understood him. He was such a realistic character. He was a strong kid throughout the story, despite having just had his house destroyed in an unexplained fire, which I really loved about him. He seemed to just get on with things and didn’t really get too scared, even of the haunting Witch. There were hints dropped about his baby sister, which suggested a traumatic incident involving her in the fire, which was fully explained at the (extremely sweet) ending. That added another element of mystery which kept me reading, because I really wanted to find out what happened to little Kizzie.
Overall, Witch Hill was quite a fun read. It isn’t the longest book I’ve ever read, but it certainly does pack a punch with it’s twisting plot. Jamie made a really great main character. He was definitely very heroic at the shocking ending, though I think the last pages were a little bit rushed. I also really loved the occasional passages about the Witch, accompanied with the author’s eerie illustrations. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a short spooky read that sends a chill up your spine and keeps you guessing at the outcome. It can be easily read in one sitting, really: a great book to curl up with on a cold and miserable night like the ones we’re having in England at the moment.
My Goodreads rating: 4/5!
I bought Witch Hill from a local charity store.