BEGONE THE RAGGEDY WITCHES, by Celine Kiernan, Candlewick Press


When witches kidnap her dad, Mup is swept up in a wild tide of magic that carries her to another world. Can she reunite her family and find her way back?

On the night that Aunty dies, the raggedy witches come for Mup’s family. Pale, cold, and relentless, the witches will do anything for the tyrannical queen who has outlawed most magic and enforces her laws with terror and cruelty — and who happens to be Mup’s grandmother. When witches carry off her dad, Mup and her mam leave the mundane world to rescue him. But everything is odd in the strange, glittering Witches Borough, even Mam. Even Mup herself. In a world of rhyming crows, talking cats, and golden forests, it’s all Mup can do to keep her wits about her. And even if she can save her dad, Mup’s not sure if anything will ever be the same again. First in a new trilogy by Irish author Celine Kiernan, this tale of family and forbidden magic charts a fresh path through the landscape of beloved fantasy tradition — and promises to bewitch any reader in search of stories to love.

Out September 2018


I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

So this book carefully breaks the rules for writing a good middle-grade novel.

Rule One: the book should be about kids, no adults… not so according to Kiernan. The victim is the MC’s dad and her mother, a secondary character who helps to move the MC toward her goals.

Rule Two:  Moving a child into danger by a close adult, like a parent, is often frowned upon.  Throwing adult responsibilities onto the shoulders of a child is also thought reckless.

However, Kiernan does this with such mastery that both broken rules are mostly disregarded and actually necessary for the story to go forward.  Does this factor make this a middle-grade novel?  Yes, I think in this case it does; however, I feel that the older end of the middle-grade spectrum would appreciate the story more, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for a younger middle-grader to like such a story because of its premise and some of the other secondary characters written alongside the mother.

Moving on…

There’s forbidden magic and quests, adventure and witches, talking animals, beautiful world-building with a fairytale feel.  The main character is bold, strong, and multi-layered not to mention somewhat fearless.   She has her own style (tutu and all), and a determination larger than life itself.  The sense of family is strong, yet troubled, and here adults don’t hide their cruelty and harshness.

A first book in a promising trilogy.  I can’t wait to see more from this author, an award winner and imaginative writer.

I gave this book:


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