Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Witch Hill - Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick's Witch Hill is a fascinatingly creepy, suspenseful story. Jamie initially isn't too worried about the bad dreams he's been having since coming to stay at his aunt's house; after all, most people who wake in the middle of the night to find their house burning down would probably have nightmares too. But Jamie's not dreaming about fires, but about a "horrible, scary old woman" who is coming after him at a relentless hobbling run. He's sure she wants him for some awful purpose. Although he's come to his Aunt Jane's to recover from the aftermath of the fire, he doesn't really want to bother her, or his cousin Alison, with his silly fears and dreams. He knows that they are busy with the plans for the Scouring of Crownhill, in which they will be cleaning the ancient chalk carving on the hillside that overlooks the village. But then the carving turns out to be a peculiar figure, not the expected "crown" that everyone thought was carved into the hill. Once Jamie uncovers evidence of a centuries-ago witchcraft trial in the papers brought by the English Heritage woman, he finds himself caught up in a centuries-old mystery to which he unwittingly holds the key. Just who is the old crone who is chasing him and what does she want ? Jamie needs to find out, but doing so will lead him to face his fears and his anger at being sent away instead of being allowed to remain with his family to help them.

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There's a long tradition of Scouring chalk figures in England. Thomas Hughes (author of Tom Brown's School Days) attended the Scouring of the White Horse at Uffington and wrote a novel about it. Long term readers of my Blog will know I live near the White Horse at Uffington, and that I have written about it for the J R R Tolkien Encyclopaedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment (which is out tomorrow if you've got $200 to spare !)


Unknown said...

Ooh, another writer that I like. I enjoyed Marcus Sedgwick's The Book of Dead Days and The Dark Flight Down. Guess I'm going to have to look for this one, too. Thanks for continuing to add to my TBR pile. ;-0

Michele said...

Thanks to Kelly, I'm currently reading The Foreshadowing (for TEotF) and today I picked up Floodland and Dark Horse from the library. Both the two you mention were out on loan, so I'm waiting on them coming back...