It is very rare these days that I refuse to get out of bed in a morning until I have finished a book – you know what with this pretending to be an adult lark. But William Hussey’s first book of the Witchfinder series had me gloriously lounging around in my PJs on Sunday morning.
I mentioned in a previous post that I picked this book up to make my 3 for 2 offer viable. I have to say, I feel a little guilty now – this is a brilliant book that deserves to have its full price paid and not used to make up the purchasing of other less worthy ‘dark fiction’. And as I have already said, I will be one of the first in the queue when the sequel in unleashed in January of next year.
Hussey has constructed a compelling story that I dare say rivals any of the YA fiction currently taking the world by storm. It tells the story of the terribly unfortunate Jake Harker (WARNING: Plot synopsis beginning); Geek, loner, bullied, alienated from mother, comic book lover and all things that go bump in the night. He is in fact something of a walking encyclopaedia of monsters and mythical evil.
This does not seem too strange given the ‘stereotype’ that these outsiders tend to take, but when it is combined with the mysterious goings on of the Hobarron Institute, you quickly realise that there is an awful lot more to this unsuspecting teenager than originally meets the eye. It turns out that there is an deranged, evil, seventeenth century wizard ‘living’ in a place of nothingness (The Veil) and commanding a whole host of unsavoury coven members. As fits with certain magical myths, each coven member derives their power from a demon, drawn from a world locked away some centuries ago.
However, once in each generation this door threatens to break open and a Demontide take over the earth. This threat would ultimately end our own civilisation and a new world of pure evil would be unleashed. I think we can agree, this would not be to our benefit! It is the work of the Hobarron Elders and their institute that prevents this tide from rampaging every twenty-five years. But not this time. This time is the last time. It is either win or fail, no shades of grey, no temporary seal. But the developed weapon is defunct and the demons and their witches are starting to line up for Armageddon.
As with all good fiction, our hero is unlikely. But we know from the outset that something strangely sinister has befallen him, something that sets him aside from all others – something that will force him to rise to the occasion through pain and sorrow. This recipe is one which works and Hussey’s version certainly does not disappoint. Gruesome and terrifying events mixed with peculiar dreams begin to wake the dormant knowledge in Jake’s soul. From witnessing the horrific decapitation of his cold mother, seeing the throat of his closest friend ripped out before him, the kidnap of his father, the betrayal of all around and a variety of monstrously imaginative murders (yes Mr Hussey, I am a little concerned about your mental health!), Jake has no option but to take matters into his own hands. He’s just not sure what those matters are.
With the winning combo of a trio of teens, Dawn of the Demontide is an 18 certificate Harry Potter. I apologise, that is an insult – this, in my opinion is far greater. I love anything to do with magic and I was happily surprised with the seventeenth century slant thrown in for good measure – although, a little worried as the second book appears to flash back to the era I am actually writing about, let’s just hope that Hussey’s work is vastly different because I am not sure I could cope with a whole rewrite again! I believe it will be, but it does make me nervous – my own writing will by no means be able to compete with these monsters!
Witchfinder is dark, gruesome and massively entertaining (my favourite part was Jake discovering half a cat stuck in the cat flap – the other half having been dissolved by a green killer acid fog cloud. As you do). The story knits together well and I predict great things for the future books. I love the historical detail that is looped in with the mythical magic knowledge, and it also really makes me want to go on holiday on the East coast of Britain (as long as there are some cast iron guarantees that no Demon Father is currently living with the Whitby Witches).
I relished every word of this novel and I will reiterate my agreement that William Hussey is ‘The New Master of Dark Fiction’. You can keep your werewolves and vampires and ridiculous love/lust shenanigans. For me, its all about the witchcraft and the demons. For me, YA fiction is all about the Witchfinder.