Hedgewitch – Skye McKenna

Illustrations – Tomislav Tomic

For we are witches, one and all,
And we are not afraid
Of goblins, grigs and gwyllions,
Our wards and charms are laid. 

All Cassie Morgan has to remember her mother by is a mysterious key and the promise she made that she would wait for her. Cassie never imagined she would still be waiting for her seven years later, behind the bars of Fowell House, with its questionable food, detestable teachers, a headmistress who’d give the Trunchbull a run for her money and the bullies on the hockey team.

When Cassie runs away from her boarding school, a talking cat named Montague accompanies her to Hedgely, where she meets the family she never knew existed. Only, her mother is not with them. It turns out the stories Cassie has been reading about faeries shouldn’t have been filed under fiction, and witchcraft? It’s real, too. 

The first in a five book series, Hedgewitch was a lot of fun. Being a new series, there were so many new people and non-humans to meet. 

When we join twelve year old Cassie at Fowell House, she’s an outcast whose primary escape when she’s perfecting her invisibility is reading. Once she arrives in Hedgely, some things come naturally to her but she struggles with others. The pain she feels as a result of her mother’s absence is always there but, despite this, Cassie has an unshakeable optimism. 

While Ivy has the potential for complexity due to both her personality and home life, so far she’s mostly sycophantic. Rue and Tabitha have the makings of being both supportive friends to Cassie and good teammates. 

For we are witches, one and all,
A coven of the best.
Good friends who stand together 
Through any threat or test. 

We’ve gone to work with the Hedgewitch but I suspect her page time will increase as the series continues and we’ll get to see what she’s truly capable of.

Montague, though? A mixture of wisdom and cattitude, Montague is perfect already. Joining Montague in the ranks of practically perfect in every way is Mrs Briggs, who smells of gingerbread and is welcome to cook for me whenever she wants.

Hedgely has many stores I want to explore further in future books but none as much as Marchpane’s, where I’ll be eating when Mrs Briggs goes on strike, and Widdershin’s, a Tardis bookstore.

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I’m keen to join Cassie as she continues to search for her mother and am looking forward to coming face to creepy bone mask with the Erl King.

Magic I most wish was real: Spoon of Eternal Pudding. 

For we are witches, one and all,
We know, protect and heal,
With noble hearts, loyal and kind,
And courage true as steel! 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Welbeck Flame, an imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It has been seven years since Cassie Morgan last saw her mother. Left at a dreary boarding school, she spends her days hiding from the school bully and reading forbidden story books about the world of Faerie.

Certain that her mother is still alive, Cassie is determined to find her, whatever the dangers, and runs away from school. Lost and alone, she is chased by a pack of goblins but, to her surprise, escapes with the help of a flying broom and a talking cat named Montague, who takes her to the cosy village of Hedgely.

Here she discovers that she comes from a family of witches, women who protect Britain from the denizens of Faerie, who are all too real and far more frightening than her story books suggest.

The Butterfly Club #1: The Ship of Doom – M.A. Bennett

Illustrations – David Dean

Watch out for the Watch. 

When Luna attends a meeting of her aunt’s Butterfly Club, she discovers the club’s true purpose: they’re time travellers who ‘borrow’ technology from the future to “bring progress forward.” 

‘I must tell you that time travel is perfectly possible.’
‘But how?’
‘All in good time.’ 

Before she’s even got her head around the fact that time travel exists, Luna learns that she’s about to see the future for herself. Luna and her two travelling companions, Konstantin, an avid reader with a clockwork heart, and Aidan, who has a “brain like a machine”, are about to board the Time Train for their very first mission.

The trio are tasked with retrieving a very important item from Southampton in 1912. It’s on board an unsinkable ship. 

This is a story of friendship and adventure, one where ordinary people can be heroes. Being true to yourself is valued and integrity is modelled by a number of characters. 

There are also some characters whose motives are more self serving and there’s a decidedly dastardly character, who I’m keen to get to know better as the series progresses. I love a good villain.

I enjoyed seeing all of the ways that humans and machinery interact in this book. Besides the boy with a clockwork heart, there’s also a man with a pocket watch eye and something intriguing about Luna’s aunt. 

‘Tiny, tiny changes can have huge consequences.’ 

Butterflies weave their way through the story, from the butterfly effect to butterfly kisses. There’s also a metaphor that helps explain something important about one of the characters. My personal favourite was the use of butterflies to describe colours, e.g., a “yellow gown the colour of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly”. 

While much of the story lined up with what I know of the Titanic’s voyage, there was one part of the story that didn’t match what I’d previously heard. When Luna sees the iceberg that sinks the Titanic, it is said to look as though it has been “lit from within” as a result of the moonlight. My understanding is that it was a moonless night when the Titanic sank.

As someone who has inhaled as many stories and movies about time travel as I can find, I questioned some of the ways time travel worked in this book.

Over the course of the book, Luna and her new friends travel to the same day on multiple occasions. Although they are in the same areas at the same time as they were previously and have conversations with the same people, their selves from the first time they lived that day are nowhere to be found. I kept thinking of Marty McFly watching the Delorean speeding through the Twin Pines Mall Lone Pine Mall car park on its way to 1985 at the end of the first movie (and the times he has to avoid running into himself in 1985 in the second one).

There is a discussion about not being able to take someone back to a time when they were younger because of the potential timey wimey consequences of having two of the same person in the same time. Knowing that the person they were talking about was soon going to stop breathing permanently, I wondered why they couldn’t take them to a day in the future shortly after the date of their untimely death.

David Dean’s illustrations are stunning. I absolutely adored the clockwork butterfly.

I’ll be boarding the Time Train when my new friends travel to their second mission. Next stop: the Valley of the Kings. 

‘When are you?’ 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Welbeck Flame, an imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Greenwich, London, 15th February 1894.

Luna thinks that an evening at her aunt’s butterfly club sounds deathly boring.

But it turns out that the meeting, held in the Butterfly Room at the Greenwich Observatory, is not at all as Luna expects. The Butterfly Club is a society with an unusual secret … they use time travel to plunder the future for wonders.

Together with her friends, Konstantin and Aidan, and a clockwork cuckoo, Luna boards the Time Train. The gang travel to 1912 and find themselves aboard a great ship travelling from Southampton to New York. They locate a man called Guglielmo Marconi and his new invention: the wireless radio. But as the ship heads into icy waters, they discover its name:

The RMS TITANIC

Can Luna and the boys save Marconi and his invention from the doomed ship?

Can they get the radio back home to the Butterfly Club?

And how will their actions change the rest of time?