Red Witch | Anna McKerrow | Quercus | ISBN 978-1784291303
The sequel to Crow Moon, Red Witch follows angry young witch Demelza Hawthorne as she journeys beyond the Greenworld, the witch-run ecocommunity she was born into, to the unknown Redworld.
Much like our own contemporary culture held up to a dark mirror, the Redworld is an unstable, unfair society on the brink of collapse, deeply riven along lines of class, power and security. Melz must sink or swim as she finds herself courted by a mysterious crime boss covetous of using her witchcraft.
Author and PD staffwriter Anna uses her fantasy setting to tackle real issues including fracking, refugee migrants and media narratives, highlighting the ambiguities of labelling societies ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For example, is a commune-based eco-community still ‘good’ if its citizens cannot treat a transgender person with respect? The author is not afraid to delve into such issues and as she does, we realise that the established order of the Greenworld and the Redworld is not destined to last long.
With change in the air, old certainties and beliefs are challenged and Melz must embrace even her own enemies to forge a way ahead. The tantalising potential of marrying magic and science to create unlimited clean energy for the world is the prize and our outsider-heroine Melz, priestess of the Morrigan, is key to it all.
Younger readers will identify with the characters and the choices they have to make in an uncertain world, while a more mature audience will recognise the interplay of many of the economic and socio-political forces we face.
Raised by a single mum, McKerrow is clearly passionate about the power of books and education. Like Crow Moon, Red Witch crackles with the intensity of a writer with a point to make, writing about a country and a mythology she knows and loves. It is a rollercoaster of a book with changes of pace, tone and setting – and surprises all along the way.
I enjoyed every moment of this smart, searing firecracker of a book and cannot wait to see what lies ahead for the Greenworld – and the Red.