A good surprise read during Halloween 🦇
Themes: YA fantasy, witches, paranormal, LGBT
In a quiet street far from the river, with an ancient tree growing through its walls and floors, is the House of the Dead. There lives the witchling: healer, midwife and conduit between the world of the living and the world below. A witchling must give up her family and friends and spend her life alone, tending to the sick and carrying the dead down dark tunnels to the underworld.
Haley was born with the gift of death-magic, and at the age of seven her mother abandons her to the witchling to be raised as her successor. But as Haley grows older and learns her craft – as invading armies pass through her town, people are born and die on her floor, and loyalties shift and dissolve around her – she finds it harder and harder to keep her vows and be the perfect and impassive healer.
But if she can’t, it will be her downfall – and that of everyone she’s not supposed to love . . .
I really enjoyed this book and was really impressed by the quality of the worldbuilding and its complexity considering it’s a standalone. We follow our main character Hailey from the day she’s brought to the local witchling (the witch healing the town’s people and guiding them to the afterworld) to her death. So, the story is really easy to follow since we discover the world and its mechanics at the same time as this little girl, who first doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. The history of the world is distilled in the background and we learn about it through news and talks which makes the reader a part of this little town.
I really liked the fact that the entire book is set in the same little village which gives an impression of having a close setting. Thanks to that, we meet a lot of different characters and get to know them little by little. The writer skillfully closes the book with people Hayley met when she was little, linking them altogether. The setting also participates in building the tension which leads to a sad ending.
However, I really disliked Hailey which usually makes me appreciate the book much less. I found her both rash and selfish, putting everything and everyone in danger for a person that doesn’t seem to deserve it.
In brief: a book that’s worth reading, very interesting and moving. I don’t like sad endings but the book would have had much less sense if it had one so it didn’t bother me this time.
My rating: 4/5