Thirteen-year-old twins Oona and Morris Kavanagh join the Cause to fight the Invaders from the Black North and defend their home from the evil that threatens to sweep across the land.
However, the violent Invaders are not the only threat. Burrowing Briar-Witches, who drag children down into the dirt, attack, stealing boys for the King in the North and girls for the witches themselves. Morris is stolen, leaving Oona alone to decide whether to make her way toward safety in the South or risk traveling North to rescue her brother and the others. She is helped by a shape-shifting jackdaw from the North who tells her she must be something special for the Invaders to want her so badly. This distinctive fantasy is rich in Irish folklore and filled with magical creatures such as the Coach-A-Bower, a dark figure whose task it is to escort souls to the afterlife. The white protagonist, refusing to be ruled by the sexist rules of her society, wields both magic and her knife against the darkness. A seductive mix of imagery-laden writing, unusual villains, and riveting adventure will pull readers in. Moments of self-conscious, almost Joycean prose break the narrative flow, a literary tic that calls attention to itself but does not seem to serve a larger artistic purpose.
Ambitious and engaging. (Fantasy. 10-14)