Luke lifted his head and sniffed the dusk. The rich smell of roast chestnuts pierced the cold foggy air, above the more familiar Spitalfields stink: horse manure, coal smoke, rubbish.
Another day he might have searched his pockets for a farthing, bought a paper cone of hot, burst chestnuts and burnt his fingers as he ate. Not today. Not with his stomach churning like a wash tub and a fluttering sickness in his gut.
Published by Hodder Children’s Books in 2014
Pages – 366
London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.
Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.
Reviewed by Jill Atkins
With its sights and smells of London, the opening of this book evokes the atmosphere of late Victorian times. I learned all too soon why Luke has the ‘sickness in his gut’. His initiation is a terrifying experience, but he is compelled to go through with it to avenge the death of both of his parents at the hands of a witch.
Luke has a special power. He can identify witches by the aura that surrounds them. But his mission seems impossible as he learns that Rosa’s family is one of influence, closely linked to the Knyvet family, the most powerful family of witches in the land.
The odds against Luke succeeding in his mission mount in a thrilling, tense drama which kept me hooked from start to finish.
Ruth Warburton has succeeded in creating some very strong, credible characters: from the naïve yet determined Luke and the beautiful Rosa to Alexis, Rosa’s drunkard yet ruthlessly ambitious brother, and Sebastian Knyvet, whose brutality is enough to make the most hardened reader cringe.
Told in the third person, alternating between Luke’s and Rosa’s viewpoints, I found I could get inside both their heads as they struggle with problems and decisions, both individually and, as the story progresses, together. The story ends in such a way that leaves it open for a sequel.
A great read that I thoroughly recommend!