I received a copy from Netgalley.
A very enjoyable UK based YA paranormal novel with some unique takes on witchcraft, a modern day story mixed in with a fantasy like historical side plot made for some really interesting story telling. Sixteen year old Merry has been having scary dreams, involving a boy her age with a scary looking sword, who seems hell bent on trying to kill her. Not helped by the fact there is a serial killer around in her town who is striking at couple in love and taking their hearts. When the boy from her dreams turns up in real life, a hidden family curse is revealed along with the fact that Merry is the latest in the family line to take on an evil wizard who is really responsible for the serial killer taking hearts.
All sounds a bit convoluted, but comes together really well. Merry is a likeable heroine, she’s known she’s had witch magic for some time and started using it, the reader learns right away that she won’t any more because something went very very wrong with her magic, and Merry is afraid of it. Though her powers are getting stronger and she finds herself losing control without meaning to. Her dad is out of the picture, left a long time ago, her mum is in complete denial and hates the family magic. Her best friend Ruby knows nothing of the magic, the only solace and comfort Merry has in dealing with it all is her older brother Leo.
Initially, Leo comes off as a typical British lad more interested in going to the pub and hanging out with his mates than anything else. But Leo turns out to be one of the best characters in the book. His relationship with his sister turns out to be a really close one, he's there, he listens to her, he helps when he can and even though he doesn't have any magic of his own, he’s by Merry’s side and supporting her every step of the way. The magic comes through the female line, while Mum ignores and wants nothing to do with it, Merry’s grandmother and her coven are the ones who help Merry train her powers once she finally accepts her destiny.
Made worse by the fact that the boy from her dreams, turns out to be very very real and part of the family curse. Only the boy has two sides to him, two different personalities one of which he has no control over as it’s tied to the evil wizard and one the normal boy he was before anything happened. Oh, and that boy’s really sweet and Merry might be falling in love with him. Just to complicate things further.
Merry’s struggle with her normal school life and her magic duties are very believable. The reader learns a little more about how Merry has handled things with her magic when she first started learning and how things unravelled quickly. She behaved pretty badly, but at least she knew it was wrong and is trying to fix it. Merry has a pretty good moral compass and a good balance of trying to do the right thing.
The story also weaves in a family curse, when Merry gets the details from Gran, instead of just being told this is what happened way back when, there’s an evil wizard tied to our ancestors who wants to destroy all lovers because he was jilted a thousand years ago and there’s a curse and an innocent boy tied up in this and turned into a monster and you have to defeat him…the story is actually shown to the reader. In separate chapters, the historical part of the story comes to vivid life like a fantasy novel, then the novel switches back to the present as Leo and Merry learn more.
We learn more about the curse and backstory through flashback and Merry’s dreams as she turns out to have a direct tie to one of her ancestors who was involved back then.
It’s completely addictive and completely gripping. Likeable characters, deplorable villains and a complex romantic side plot. It’s a really different way of story telling and I really enjoyed it.
Thank you Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children’s for approving my request to view the title.