The Wren Hunt: A YA Fantasy

As I start to introduce more young adult fiction into my reading, I am reminded of the sheer simplicities of reading when you’re young. The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson was a slightly confusing, but overall well-written, enticing book. It follows in-line with many YA fantasies which focus on the fact that if this character wasn’t involved, the specific events of the novel would not have happened. The Wren Hunt will be published on 8 February 2018 by Bloomsbury.

The plot
Set in Ireland, The Wren Hunt is a young adult fantasy novel focusing on the life of Wren, a girl who is chased through the town every year on ‘wren day’, as opposed to hunting for an actual bird. This basis forms the rest of the plot and offers a theme for readers to enjoy. Wren is an augur, and she is faced with infiltrating the enemy, the judges in order to save their magic. Once she has gained the judges’ trust, Wren undergoes many trials and tribulations, discovering more about herself, with shocking revelations along the way, constantly encouraging the reader to question who can and cannot be trusted.

What I liked
I thought the book’s plot was very well-devised. I enjoyed the unexpected twists, the hints about who might be betraying who, the forbidden romance element and the theme of loyalty. I thought that Wren was a powerful character; she doesn’t blindly follow either ‘tribe’ as she attempts to make decisions for herself. I found the dynamics between her and her family admirable for most of the story, however did not always enjoy the feeling that they were all hiding something from one another.
Tarc is a great character; as the reader, you can see him come to life and develop throughout the plot. I like how Watson portrays him from the beginning as a protector of Wren. Wren’s friends, Aisling and Sibeal were questionable at best, with their loyalties often not coming through in times of need. Maeve and Smith are the ultimate family members for the most part, and it becomes more prevalent throughout how they feel about Wren and what they would do before.
I enjoyed the complexities of characters such as Cassa and David, especially the loyalties and jealousies caused throughout the story. I felt that with family and loyalty being a big factor in the book, Wren made the right decision at the end of the book because she was never lied to by the people she chooses to be with and is protected.
I loved the magical elements; the different abilities of the augurs, the suggestion of Tarc as a tree-man and the way that they can all just tell things that are happening. I did think that the mixture of the magic with the creepy atmosphere of the boys chasing Wren made the story what it is. I did think that the romance worked well within the story, especially with Wren’s fate at the end.

What I didn’t like
Honestly, I found it difficult to get into. The story begins very abruptly with an explanation as to why the boys were hunting her, yet from there the explanations become quite vague. I didn’t feel that I knew what the augurs and judges really were for most of the book, why they were enemies or what had led them to this situation. Bits of this were explained at various points. I could see a young person getting a little confused and not wanting to continue reading this without the standard background chapter that usually exists in YA fantasies.
The only other thing I didn’t enjoy was the setting descriptions. I felt like there wasn’t a clear grasp of the present era; people had phones and sent texts which was fine, but the mention of UK stores such as Tesco really pulled me out of the narrative. I feel that this would have been better set in another world, or even in a dystopian setting when they had settled and rebuilt society rather than in the present when things like this would not just go unnoticed by other people. Also, with it being set in modern times, I found it jarring that there were no characters met who were neither augur nor judge.
There was no explanation of schools either; Wren taking the internship meant that the real world felt completely cut out of the narrative, so I felt that Watson should have chosen one or the other settings for the sake of clarity. On the other hand, young readers might like the idea that these things could be happening in the world around them.

I would recommend this book to lovers of YA, dystopian and realist fantasy fiction. If you love a good few twists to shock the main character, you’ll love this novel. I was provided with an advance reader copy by NetGalley and Bloomsbury.

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