*This review will contain spoilers!*
First things first, a huge thank you to Lorna Hargreaves. Lorna invited me to participate in the ‘Here Be Witches’ blog tour, and sent me this title in exchange for an honest review.
ICYMI, you can read my review of the first book in the Snowdonia Chronicles, ‘Here Be Dragons’, here.
‘The girl turns her masked face to the summit, above her the air shudders. Just seconds left. If only she can time it right. Heart hammering, blood pounding, she poises herself.’
Two things about this prologue hooked me:
- The first paragraph imitates the mysterious viewpoint we experienced at the start of ‘Here Be Dragons’. I love cohesive series.
- There’s no time jump. The prologue of ‘Here Be Witches’ is set a couple of hours after the epilogue of ‘Here Be Dragons’. The characters are exactly the same as we left them.
If the title doesn’t give you a big enough hint, ‘Here Be Witches’ is full of witchy chaos. On Saint David’s day, a coven of witches head up to Dinas Emrys to free the dragons from their curse. The leader of the coven, known as the Supreme One, wants Henry’s heart for her own.
When things go south and a girl falls to her death – speared on both Oswald and Henry’s hearts – the Supreme One forces Rhiannon (who only joined the coven for a love potion to use on George) to trick Ellie. They plan to pin the blame on her for the death, but George’s gran bails her out and breaks this news:
“Wales is in great danger,” she says. “If I am not mistaken, today is the first day of the end of the world.”
Yep, the Supreme Ones spell broke the High Magicke, and now mythical creatures freely roam Wales. (The coven also sped up time. It’s explained, but it’s a convoluted info dump.)
Ellie, George and Rhiannon have just three days to travel across Snowdonia with their new friend, Davey. (Who appeared out of nowhere, but Granny Jones trusts him instantly.) They must find Idris, the Stargazer, and ask him to speak to Draco to release Henry. Because his heart was tainted with the blood, if Draco won’t free him he’ll be forced to live among the stars forever more.
If there’s one thing worse than Ellie not seeing Henry for another 72 years, it’s never being able to see him again.
As well as trying to free Henry, the gang must restore the High Magicke, trap Oswald (again) AND deal with all of the other creatures roaming the countryside. That’s all before Ellie has to face her court appearance…
Sounds easy, right?
Everything about this installment was an improvement. Ellie acts far more maturely when she’s not physically with Henry. It’s obvious that the gushy instalove exploding from the pages of ‘Here Be Dragons’ was necessary to establish the rest of the series, but it’s completely absent in this novel.
‘Here Be Witches’ is far longer – nearly 500 pages – because Sarah fully explores the history and mythology of Snowdonia. Instead of just dragons, we meet witches (surprisingly!), Cwn Annwn, Coblynau, Brenin Llwyd and Coraniaids. All of the creatures are intricately described, the stories behind them being incorporated both in the footnotes and the narrative itself. It can feel a little repetitive when the same facts are mentioned two or three times in the space of a few pages, but it makes it impossible to muddle the creatures. I hadn’t heard of any of them before, but I’m so fascinated by all of them that I need to do further reading into Welsh folklore.
I didn’t give this book five stars because the ending is rushed. Everything happens at once. Henry returns and the Supreme One is unveiled within a couple of pages. (Not to mention the Supreme Ones reveal is completely freaking obvious). This is a classic quest novel, our heroes journeying across Snowdonia on the back of ponies to save the day. That means the pace throughout is slow and steady, so the velocity of the ending gives you whiplash.
The ending points towards another sequel, and I’m excited about that. ‘Here Be Dragons’ was a struggle, and I read it extremely slowly. Despite ‘Here Be Witches’ being double the length, I sped through it. If you read and didn’t enjoy the first book, give this one a chance. You won’t regret it.