The Lost Witch by Melvin Burgess
Andersen, 2020. ISBN: 9781783448357.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Leeds Book Awards Nominee for 14-16 (2019). This is not a book for the faint-hearted or for fans of easy to read stories about young witches. As the back-cover states, it is not suitable for younger readers, but for older readers, the combination of the supernatural and tough realism that Melvin Burgess, author of Junk, is famous for, makes for an engrossing, dark and compelling read. Bea has begun to see things that no one else can see - as the family are returning home late one night, she sees evil creatures, the Hunt, and discovers that she can summon help for the creatures that are being chased. Known as the Summoner, she has the rare ability to call the spirits of people and animals out of their bodies. She meets a charismatic young man Lars, who has taught her how to skate board as well as a young girl, Silvis, who introduces her to her grandfather, Odi, who warns her to be careful as the huntsmen want to use her to gain these magical spirits. However her parents believe she is hallucinating and take her to a hospital where she is chased by the Hunt but rescued by Lars and from then on Bea is confused, not knowing who she can trust and what is the right thing to do. Lars assures Bea that he is on the side of good and is against the Hunt, but gradually the reader becomes concerned for her well-being as she is introduced to drugs and begins to summon the spirits of living creatures.
Bea is a likeable but naive young woman who doesn't know where to put her trust and under Lars' influence seems unable to work out what is good and what is evil. He assures her that by helping him her family will be rescued and Bea goes along with what he wants her to do. The final, dramatic event when Bea must take responsibility for her actions and try to set things right will have readers on the edge of their seats.
Burgess' narrative is perfectly constructed, with twists and turns, leaving the reader wondering who can be trusted. His characters come alive and it is easy to believe this tale of myth and magic, witches and the Hunt. Bea's friendship with the loyal and sympathetic Silvis is a highlight of the story, but the failings of her father make a grim contrast, as the reader finds that parents are not always right and do the correct thing for their children.