Pascoe’s YA novel follows a teenage witch’s journey through time.
Fourteen-year-old Rachel “Raya” Hollingsworth lives in foster care alongside 11-year-old Jake. Worried that she’s inherited her mother’s schizophrenia because of her tendency to hear and see things others don’t, Raya runs away. Her kindly social worker, Bryony Braxton—who just happens to be a witch (or “integrator”)—soon catches up to her in Raya’s hometown of Barking, England. Bryony reports that Jake also ran away from foster care and helps Raya to realize that the things she’s seeing and hearing, including her communications with Bryony’s cat, Oscar, are the result of her status as an integrator. Raya’s guilt over Jake’s disappearance accidentally transports her and Oscar (via magic) to Colchester, Essex, in 1645…right in the middle of the Essex witch trials. Bryony arrives to help, and together they attempt to contact Integrator Headquarters to find a way home as the “Witchfinder General,” Matthew Hopkins, closes in on them (“Raya protested but stopped when Hopkins grabbed her by the arm. When he touched her, she saw nothing but mud, smelled rotting things and tasted metal”). Raya’s bittersweet memories of her mother are absolutely heartbreaking and serve as an important touchstone for readers who may have experienced similar trauma. The author’s talent for balancing real-world issues with adrenaline-pumping exploits through time (including a perilous sojourn to 17th-century Istanbul) is impressive, as are her richly detailed descriptions of various people and places: “She heard every strand of conversation, smelled the cheese and yeasty bread of the court watchers, felt the change in temperature as they left the courtroom for the cooler hallway. The dappled light through the window was beautiful. The onlookers outside sounded like a murder of crows.”
A sensitive and nuanced exploration of foster care and mental health set against a dazzling backdrop of magic and history.