I received a copy from Netgalley.
I pre ordered this ages before I requested a review copy from Netgalley. I must admit I pre ordered based on cover and the fact that the title is Taylor Swift song. I probably read the blurb at some point and forgot what it was about.
And to my immense surprise my Netgalley request was actually approved.
Possible trigger warnings for self-harm.
This was a fun book about a girl who’s visiting relatives in Scotland while at the same time having strange dreams about twin girls in the time of the Scottish Witch Trials. (I usually don’t like books where the characters have the same name as myself, but thankfully this was a first person novel so it didn’t grate on me too much). The main character Heather has some disturbing compulsions that make her carve intricate designs into her skin, which make her bleed.
At the start of the novel she’s been caught by her parents and been sent to a Wellness Centre for recovery. Which at least seems to be working, she’s taking meds, talking to a therapist and come home, and been allowed to go on to her annual vacation to visit her Aunt Abbie in Scotland. With check ins with her parents and on line Skye sessions with her therapist.
Only the need to carve the weird designs into her skin haven’t really gone away. She’s got it under control enough to fool the grownups into thinking she’s okay when she’s really not. To be fair though, she knows she’s doing something wrong, there is something unexplainable about the way the sudden compulsion over comes her. But she can’t cope or do anything until the design is carved into her skin. It’s a weird intricate knot type design.
There’s a historical element to the novel telling the story of twin sisters Prudence and Primrose who lived in the 1700s. Their story starts with one of them being burned as witch. Their history is revealed to Heather in the modern day through her dreams. Once loving sisters learning the healing craft of their ancestors with the mother, things turn sour turning the twins into bitter rivals going deeper into magic they should not be messing with.
All this is having a big effect on Heather in the modern day. In Edinburgh with her aunt Abbie, Heather gets some bad news about her aunt, and also has to deal with the fact that her grandmother has dementia and has been put into a home. Not fun on top of increasingly frightening nightmares starring Prudence and Primrose.
Having been to Scotland every summer for years and years Heather has made some really good friends with some of the other teens in town. She gets to see them in the summer. They’re all quite excited to be together again, though initially Heather is a little disappointed the older boy she likes isn’t there that summer, just his brother Robby who she’s known forever is. They’re good friends, but there’s a definite spark between them that everyone but Heather seems to see.
As the dreams get worse and worse, and a few visits to grandma reveal some surprising information, talk of witches in the family, something bad involving using blood for spells, Heather does some digging. And discovers some home truths she never knew.
It’s a good story with a great historical and some really good mystical elements. Some good teen angst added in and with an inevitable romance. My only real issue with this which is why it was a four star rather than a five star read was I found most of the characters very two dimensional. They were all likeable, but I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from any of them really.
The novel was exceptionally well written, so it didn’t really matter that the characters were a little flat, the history and mythology worked well, and the magic elements were well done and quite unique. There’s also a really good sense of place, the Scottish setting is brilliantly done. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Edinburgh and the Scottish countryside. Both modern day and historical it felt really authentic, beautifully written and easy to picture.
Despite a few flaws, it was a really good read and definitely something I would read again.
Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s for approving my request to view this title