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Weyward - a witchy novel by Emilia Hart

Weyward by Emilia Hart

Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism

Publish date March 7, 2023; 336 pages

Thanks to #Netgalley and #StMartinsPress for the advance copy of this book. The opinions are my own and I'm sorry about the slightly late review.

First Sentence: "ALTHA 1619 - Ten days they'd held me there. Ten days, with only the stink of my own flesh for company. Not even a rat graced me with its presence. There was nothing to attract it; they had brought me no food. Only ale."

PLOT - excerpted from Goodreads blurb

I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. As she learns more about her late aunt, she discovers secrets that lead her to learn more about herself.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family's grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, and her unloving, fearful father, she's lonely and misses her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.


Books often have multiple storylines and timelines weaving in and out through a story - it's a tricky technique to do well. This debut novel does an admirable job of using three clearly defined storylines, each in different eras and the chapters alternate between the women's stories. Each era is anchored by a well defined woman who faces realistic problems from her era - and all revolve around men. Beginning with Altha and her trial for witchcraft and her fears and how she overcame them, each woman has a fear, a terror, in her life that she has to overcome and find her Weyward family power.

This was a wonderful book and the characters are excellent - each suffering abuse in different ways and in different times, yet each able to overcome and take a measure of control of their own lives. Lots of character growth exhibited by each woman. Each era is faithfully rendered and feels authentic, both in setting and dialog. The writing was descriptive enough to set apart each timeline yet not so dense as to make it tiresome. However, all the men were portrayed as bad guys. That's a little too heavy handed and unfair even though I understand that's how Hart is making her point - a very feminist point.

“Witch. The word slithers from the mouth like a serpent, drips from the tongue as thick and black as tar. We never thought of ourselves as witches, my mother and I. For this was a word invented by men, a word that brings power to those that speak it, not those that it describes. A word that builds gallows and pyres, turns breathing women into corpses.”

Being in touch with the natural world - both critters and plants - is integral to the story and plays a big part in helping the women discover their true selves. There's a bit of witchcraft/magic in each era, but it's mostly secondary to the story of the strength of character each woman discovers about herself.

This would be a good book club reading choice - lots of things to talk about!

Categories tagged:

Historical Fiction: 5/15

Popsugar: 6/40

COYER 1st semester: 24 books read

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