Book Review: Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgwick
We are going to call this a mini-review because this is a very small book. I was browsing aimlessly through the library when the name caught my eye. I’d been on the waiting list for Marcus Sedgwick’s new book for about three weeks and I thought perhaps a peek at some of his early works might whet my appetite and give me some idea of his writing style. So I picked up Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgwick. It’s a short book, not even 150 pages long, and I raced through it in a little over an hour while at my favorite coffeehouse. I irritate the workers by camping out on the couch and abusing the bottomless cup they offer at least once a month. I’m evil that way.
From book jacket: The fire in his home was a family tragedy that Jamie can’t forget. Fire dominates his waking thoughts and his dreams. When his family sends him away to Crownhill to recover, they don’t realize they are sending him to a village with its own dark history of witchcraft – and with ancient buried powers that are unleashed by Jamie’s presence. A present-day boy, a seventeenth-century girl, and an ancient crone: for a single moment, their lives are fused by fire.
This is the type of story that feels so familiar you could have sworn you’ve read it before. (It’s entirely possible I have and just can’t remember.) It’s the type of story that is told around campfires and is ingrained into the human consciousness from our long oral history. It’s a classic with a thousand retellings and drags up the memory of being a young child, wondering at the shadows of our bedroom. Every thump and dump in the night is the boogieman coming to get us. However, the writing style is jerky. It’s as if you’re being yanked along a rough draft rather than a complete, polished book. There is no flow and Witch Hill ends up feeling like something unfinished.
I sincerely hope this is not all that Marcus Sedgwick has to offer. Witch Hill was first publish in 2001 and is a juvenile book, so it is possible that his writing has improved since then. I’m really looking forward to Midwinterblood and I hope it deliveries something different from Witch Hill. I was left dissatisfied by Witch Hill and feel like with more effort it could have turned into something fantastic. I can see the potential in the book and it’s frustrating to be presented with a story that falls so short of what it could have been.