An outsider encounters a secret magical war in this sequel to The Wren Hunt (2018).
Zara’s family is unraveling following the unexplained (perhaps inexplicable) death of her older sister, Laila, in their new home, the Irish village of Kilshamble. Zara has few friends and soon earns enemies as she haphazardly attempts to solve her sister’s mysterious last days and death. Brown-skinned Zara’s isolated, not set apart from the mostly white residents because of her parents’ South African background but because of her mundanity and humanity. Wading through grief and guilt, Zara stumbles on the secret war between the manipulative magic-wielding augurs and militant judges—feuding descendants of the semi-Druidic draoithe—and repeatedly crosses paths with neighbor David. Spurred on by his father and a “black-and-white vision of the world,” white 18-year-old David simultaneously competes to succeed his disgraced brother, Oisín, as the judges’ War Scythe and searches for a missing, potentially apocalypse-triggering, item. Swerving between Zara’s grieving process and the erratically escalating draoithe guerilla war, the unevenly paced plot gets bogged down by extraneous details and side plots. Watson exhaustively explores the protagonists’ current angst and agony but offers minimal backstories for the characters and vague and contradictory mythology for the draoithe. Zara’s family is cued as being of Indian Muslim heritage.
A bleak and brooding contemporary fantasy that sells magic short. (glossary) (Fantasy. 14-18)