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BOOK REVIEW: Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Blurb (From Goodreads):

On the night that Aunty dies the Raggedy Witches come for Mup's mam. Pale, cold, relentless, they will do anything to coax Mam back to Witches Borough. When they kidnap Mup's dad, Mup and her mam must leave the mundane world to rescue him. But Mam is strange on this side of the border - striding, powerful, and distant. Even if they can save Dad, Mup is not sure anything will ever be the same again...

My Thoughts:

Celine Kiernan is an Irish writer, illustrator and animator best known for her wonderful Moorehawke fantasy series for young adults, which I read and loved many years ago. Begone the Raggedy Witches is aimed at a younger readership, but it shares the vivid and atmospheric world-building, the strong and empathetic characters, and the powerful plot engine which keeps the story whizzing along.
The story begins when Mup realises that their car is being followed home from the hospital by a troop of dark, raggedy, malevolent-looking witches. Her great-aunt has just died, and the raggedy witches want to seize Mup’s mother Stella, who is the heir to the throne in a magical land that presses close against our own.

Celine Kiernan’s writing is exquisite, but done with such a light hand it does not impede the progression of the plot at all: ‘The witches were gone. That was certain. There was no taint or tincture of them to the night, no trace of them in light or shadow.’

The ghost of her great-aunt saves Mup’s mother, although she is ‘nothing but a silver outline … filled in with the night.’ The witches then kidnap Mup’s father, to set a trap for Stella. Mup sets out with her mother, baby brother and pet dog to save him. Yet the magical world is ruled by a cruel and terrifying witch – Mup’s grandmother.

Mup is a delightful character. Funny, quirky, kind-hearted and brave, she stands up for what she thinks is right. After deciding to cross into the other world, she dresses herself in rainbow-striped tights, lime-green gumboots with frog faces, a pink tulle tutu, and an orange hat with rabbit ears. As Celine Kiernan writes: ‘There was something about the witches – their cold, dark eyes, maybe, their fluttering black clothes – that made Mup want colours.’

The action hurtles along, with lots of surprising twists and revelations, culminating in a petrifying denouement with the queen, in which Mup triumphs because of her goodness and kindness and trust in the world.

This is the loveliest children’s fantasy book I’ve read in a while, with a delightful heroine supported by memorable characters (including a tongue-tied raven who is really a boy), and the promise of more adventures to come. Wonderful in every sense of the word.

If you're interested in Children's Fantasy, you might like to read my review of Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend. Please leave a comment, I love to know your thoughts! 

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