With her debut YA novel, The Hawkweed Prophecy, Irena Brignull stands a chance to garner strong favor in the crowded world of young adult fantasy. Unfortunately, Brignull’s story of teenage witches has a few fatal flaws that may hinder her rise to the top.
Note: I received an uncorrected proof of this novel from the publisher. Any quoted material may be changed in the official text.
The Hawkweed Prophecy revolves around a pair of hexed teenagers who were swapped at birth, thanks to a spell cast by their aunt. An ancient legend foretells that one of the Hawkweed sisters will give birth to the queen of all witches, and the elder of the two is determined to secure that fate for her own daughter. And so, the mortal Ember becomes a Hawkweed, while the precociously talented Poppy grows up with the non-magical Hooper family. When fate draws the girls into a forbidden friendship, they begin to unravel the mystery surrounding their births and abilities, with deadly consequences.
For a story so centered on women, The Hawkweed Prophecy fails its heroines in a very important way. The three teen girls at the heart of the novel — Ember, Poppy, and their cousin, Sorrel — fall for the same boy: Leo, a street urchin with an untold past. Brignull’s treatment of Leo isn’t a healthy one. When Poppy feels that Leo’s flirtatious compliments aren’t genuine, she pulls away from him. He attempts to draw her back and grows angry when she continues to resist. Immediately, the novel tells us, Poppy “knew she should try to hold him, kiss him, and make him feel better.” She doesn’t, but the text’s suggestion that young women are responsible for the happiness of teenage boys — even those that give them bad vibes — is a head-first dive into rape culture, and it sours the remaining two-thirds of Brignull’s debut.
Although publisher’s copy indicates that The Hawkweed Prophecy is intended to launch a brand-new YA series, the suspense created by one major player’s sudden departure in the book’s final pages may not be strong enough to build a following. The cliffhanger feels more like an open ending, and that’s not good for a novel counting on returning readers.
Ultimately, The Hawkweed Prophecy is an entertaining read, if a flawed one. Whether it’s bestseller material remains to be seen.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for this review.
Image Credit: Alex Troshenkov