Review: Wildwitch: Wildfire by Lene Kaaberbøl and Rohan Eason, translated by Charlotte Barslund

The Worst Witch meets the Hunger Games.

Publication Date: 21st January 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Children’s

Wildwitch: Wildfire was a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with interesting characters and a compelling plot. Part bildungsroman, part fantasy, part court drama, Kaaberbøl’s story allows the reader to follow young Clara’s journey from her normal life, to a new and magical world.

The writing is clear and enticing, a testament both to the original and to Barslund’s translation. Apart from creating an impressive and wondrous imaginarium, where ‘wildwitches’ protect and control the natural world, ruled by their own councils and laws, the novel’s greatest attraction is the simplicity with which Clara carries herself; the way honesty is rewarded above skill. Unlike other novels in similar genres, where the main character miraculously acquires the skills they need under pressure, Clara does not surpass herself, nor is she surprised by what she can do in her trials. She is simply true to herself, and the only thing she needs is confidence in her and the desire to keep learning.

There are a few aspects which remain unexplained, perhaps unnecessarily – how did Clara perform magic with iron around her throat? Why is Chimera after her? What does Oscar think of all this? The important thing about these questions is that they don’t affect the reader during the novel, only after, demonstrating the fluency and pace of the story. Wildfire is just the first in a series – these unanswered questions certainly cement the reader’s desire to keep reading the Wildwitch series.

The illustrations are sensitive and work well with the tone of the story. Eason has created classic images with creative twists, that add atmospheric touches to this beautiful novel.

I recommend Wildwitch: Wildfire – and the ensuing addiction to the series – to any children with a penchant for magical writing, and anyone who holds out a secret hope that there are powers yet to be discovered. I would also encourage those with a love for the natural world to give this novel their full attention, as it is wonderfully represented. Overall, a fantastic read, and one that you’ll find hard to put down.

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