Mary Watson’s The Wren Hunt is an urban fantasy set in Ireland. It invokes fey magic and folklore to tell a coming of age story filled with myth and skullduggery. Here are five reasons why you should read it.
There are very definite similarities with Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Indeed, Cooper’s classic contains two references to the traditional “Wren Hunt,” an annual event that is marked, in Ireland, on St. Stephen’s Day.
The Wren Hunt is steeped in the mythology of Celtic and druidic Ireland. The book contains stories of the fey that are woven into the modern lives of the novel’s characters. This is a tale of conflicting groups of secretive modern-day druids and the animosity between them.
The Wren Hunt is set in a mystical modern Ireland, in a town somewhere on the outskirts of Dublin. One that somehow seems to stand outside of time. Watson describes a land of standing stones and sacred sites that would send Julian Cope into rapture. The reading of portents and signs from nature is central to the novel, and Watson’s descriptions of her settings are wonderfully evocative.
3: The Plot
Who can resist a story of centuries-old war? One that’s filled with shadowy leaders and long-standing grudges. Throw in a splash of soothsaying and you have all the makings of an intriguing novel.
4: The Characters
Malevolent, heroic, naive, stoic, imperious, and duplicitous are just a few ways to describe the cast of The Wren Hunt. Its characters are so well drawn, it’s hard to believe that Ireland doesn’t have people who can divine the future just by using the clouds. The main focus of the novel is Wren, a young woman caught between two opposing sides. But which one should she favor, the one that brought her up and sheltered her from the harm, or the other, the one she is strangely drawn to?
5: The Finale
The Wren Hunt builds deliciously to its conclusion. The book is slow-paced but is haunting, brooding, and filled with menace. The folksy Augurs are under the cosh by the ruthless Judges, but as the story travels to its conclusion, a wider picture reveals itself. As the final pages play out there is betrayal, deceit, and recrimination. Almost none of it is where you expect it to be.
The Wren Hunt is perfect for fans of Susan Cooper and The Dark is Rising, and those who like with their urban fantasy with less grit and more art. I loved the mythology employed in The Wren Hunt and the book’s finale is particularly fine. It’s one of those books where you don’t quite realize how good it is until the very last line.
If you like this format of book review, do check out my other 5 Reasons to Read posts here.
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher for review.