The Wickerlight by Mary Watson
YA fantasy, murder mystery, and romance, The Wickerlight by Mary Watson follows Zara as she desperately seeks answers to her sister’s death and final days and David as he searches for his role in a magical society.
Zara’s sister is found death on the town green and despite an autopsy, no one knows why she died. While her family crumbles under their grief, Zara retraces her sister’s life to feel closer to her and piece together what really happened. At the same time, David faces brutal consequences when he tries to help his damaged brother. If he doesn’t find the magical artifact his brother lost, a war will break out. One his brother won’t survive.
The Wickerlight is a story told in layers. The murder mystery component is excellently executed: the more Zara learns, the more danger she finds herself in. This keeps the tension high and story moving. You won’t know “who-dun-it” until the final pages.
Another layer is the novel’s family drama. While a lot of stories are about families reconciling and coming together to weather tough times, that’s not Watson’s perspective. She shows how sometimes space — and even separation — are what people need. When a husband won’t stop cheating and a father won’t stop using his sons as pawns for his own selfish goals, pulling together won’t work. Not all relationships last forever, even those bound by blood. This was a refreshing and fitting spin.
Then there is the romantic layer: Zara and David can’t seem to stop crossing paths. The more they do, the more their attraction grows, but like Romeo and Juliet, their families do everything they can to stop them from spiraling into each other.
Despite its romance and the physical punishment for magic wielders, this book doesn’t contain any overly intimate scenes or graphic violence. It is told in first person from two points of view.
Because The Wickerlight follows two stories slowly entwining, the beginning was a bit of a struggle. Zara’s early sections are pure murder mystery and lack any obvious magical elements. David’s early sections are immersed in the magical society and don’t have anything to do with Zara and her sister yet. For a while, I got a bit of whiplash and felt like I was reading two different books. Once David ventured into town and some of the same settings as Zara, and Zara began to connect the dots between her sister and the magical community, that sensation went away.
If you can hang on past the early sections – which aren’t at all boring or long, just a bit jarring – Watson’s novel becomes a page turner. Zara and David’s story’s and points of view overlap and fuse together with plenty of unexpected twists. The Wickerlight became a novel I couldn’t put down. If you like YA fantasy and mystery, it will pull you in too.