Book Review: ‘The Hawkweed Legacy’ by Irena Brignull

Author: Irena Brignull

First Published in June 2016 by Orchard Books

Review by Miriam Atkinson

The sequel to Irena Brignull’s first novel The Hawkweed Prophecy, The Hawkweed Legacy features an ensemble of returning characters. Poppy: running from being Queen. Ember: attempting to live her new ordinary life. Leo: wondering where he belongs. Sorrel: trying to escape her mother’s ghost. Charlock: Poppy’s mother, searching for redemption from her many secrets. Betony: fighting to regain her lost memories. All of their journeys entwine in the climax at the coven of the northern witches.

I have yet to read Prophecy as when I first chose to review Legacy back in 2017 I was unfamiliar with the series and did not realise that it was a sequel. Coming into the series halfway through I did wonder if I was going to enjoy the novel but after a few initial chapters that set the scene for the coming story I was soon able to understand what was happening and found myself being drawn in to this world and its characters.

Front cover of the first book in the series: ‘The Hawkweed Prophecy’

I’ve found from reading other novels with multiple points of view that as a reader you will always prefer some characters’ chapters over others. Personally I wish more time could have been spend with Ember and Sorrel, partially because they had fewer chapters than the others, but also because their struggles interested me more as they seemed to have lost more than they had gained between Prophecy to Legacy so they were the characters I rooted for to succeed. My favourite chapters were flashbacks to a young Charlock and a young Betony. These explored the rules and dynamic of this female coven and described how young witches would venture into our ordinary world in hopes of becoming pregnant. It was exciting to gradually build up the story of how and why Betony had amnesia in the present day and find out exactly what Charlock was desperately redemption seeking for. I actually preferred this story to the main plot of Poppy deciding if she wants to be Queen as for me Poppy’s story didn’t have the same excitement and anticipation as Betony’s. However this is personal preference and not a direct criticism of the novel. With so many key characters I believe that each reader will have a different experience when reading the novel which I feel is a positive as it means the novel can reach a wider audience and generate much discussion from it.

The main themes of The Hawkweed Legacy are belonging and self-discovery. All the characters ask the fundamental questions of who they are and what their place is in the world – either magical or non-magical. Irena Brignull has wonderfully created six intertwining stories that all follow these themes in a realistic and clearly defined way. I believe most people will give thought to where they belong at some point in their lives. Legacy highlights and exaggerates these fears and feelings and this self-reflection is one of the things that made the novel enjoyable to read.

Full of intriguing characters and journeys of discovery, Legacys story is accessible to both new and returning readers and I’m sure there will be many fun debates about who the readers’ favourite characters are.

*This review was originally published in the online magazine Cuckoo Review in June 2020*

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