Author: Mary Watson
First published by Bloomsbury in 2018
Review by Miriam Atkinson
The Wren Hunt wastes no time and opens with our heroine Wren being chased through the forest by a group of boys in a twisted yearly tradition to celebrate St Stephan’s day. The reader is then introduced to two warring factions: The Augurs – who hold a dwindling control over an ancient magical power that connects them to the flow of the Earth – and The Judges – who want to destroy the Augurs and regain total power for themselves. Set in modern day Ireland, Wren is sent undercover in the house of influential Judge; Cassa Harkness to find an item which could save her people. However when Wren accidentally falls in love with Tarq (a Judge) her black and white view of the world becomes a twisted web of grey.
One of the most enjoyable elements of the novel is its setting in present day Ireland. It is a refreshing change from the regular imagined fantasy lands which helps to set The Wren Hunt apart from other young adult/fantasy novels. It leads to many entertainingly surreal moments as the two worlds are casually mixed together, such as Wren plotting how to save her secret magical world while on the bus to work drinking a can of coke. Or details of mythology and lore immediately followed by which Marvel superhero Wren and her friends fancy. Author Mary Watson manages to find the perfect balance between these familiar and unfamiliar worlds. The earliest chapters, after the initial Wren hunt, are devoted to world and lore building. I must admit it can be slightly confusing for first time readers who do not yet have a firm understanding of whom these factors (the Judges and the Augurs) are and why these characters are worth rooting for, especially as the reader is introduced to so many new characters and ideas in such a short space of time. Fortunately the confusion is short-lived and the novel quickly gets going by exploring Wren’s dual life in this fascinating story. It is worth pointing out that the lore and world building in these early chapters is a lot easier to grasp upon a second read-through.
Completing the plot is a Romeo and Juliet style love story between Wren and Tarq. Wren, an Augur, knows that if Tarq ever finds out who and what she is then he will be forced to kill her. As the hatred between the Augurs and the Judges intensifies the pair are drawn together in a forbidden love that threatens everyone’s safety. With many young adult novels relying on a tedious love-triangle plotline (creating the myth that when we’re teenagers there will be two seriously hot guys fighting it out for our affections) it was fantastic to read a believable romance focusing on the choice between family and love. The naturally growing relationship between Wren and Tarq is one of the highlights and strengths of the novel.
The Wren Hunt is a wonderful fusion of the magical and the everyday. This young adult novel successfully manages to steer its story through many genes and creates memorable, 3-dimensional characters. As a reader I was completely drawn into the world and I am excited to find out what happens next.
*This review was originally written for the online magazine Cuckoo Review in January 2018*