To kick off the blog tour for this publication is a real honour, especially as this is definitely one of those books that I will recall and recommend for years to come, and absolutely intend on rereading it too. I read this book in one evening, unable to put it down, and am so excited to have this chance to share my enjoyment in having read this latest title by Victoria Williamson, author of other favourites of mine – The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle (2018), and The Boy with the Butterfly Mind (2020).
I knew the premise of this story before I began reading it, and love that it is based on one of Robert Burns famous, and best loved poems, Tam O’Shanter. From the very offset I felt that his legacy had been honoured with the portrayal of his childhood years in this book, and that extends to his family too. I can only imagine how much research went into this book, and would be fascinated to find out all about Victoria’s journey prior to bringing this incredible idea for a middle grade spooky adventure story down on paper, because the attention to detail offered in every sentence, the depth of the story overall, and the use of language, locations and terminology true to the relevant time period sure does suggest that this is one thoroughly researched book. To say that I was impressed with what I was reading would be the understatement of the year. I was enthralled and enraptured.
We are introduced to Rab (Robert) as he adjusts to life on his family’s farm, alongside his parents and multiple siblings. The family haven’t got it easy, although they do have a hot meal on the table every night, and just about manage to make ends meet. Farm life is hard for them all, and Rab struggles to understand why they would have moved there to face such hardships, and never ending hardwork from their cosy family home down in the village. More then anything else he dreams of being able to see his friends again, and return to school, but instead he has to work hard to help tend their farmland.
It is whilst working out in the fields that Rab happens across a hag stone, although all the young lad sees it as is a curiously shaped pebble, and is quick to dismiss it. He won’t be able to ignore it for long.
Soon after the stone has been discovered strange things start happening around Rab, which spook him for sure, and yet he explains them away to himself, only to find they continue – and that the stone he repeatedly disregards keeps reappearing! At the same time that Rab is trying to make sense of everything his mum’s cousin Betty has been making visits to the family home to help his mum with the children and chores, and entertaining them all with spooky tales of witchcraft in front of the fire. This really grabs his attention, and it isn’t long before Rab starts to suspect Betty is somehow behind the strange things unfolding around him, and a visit to her home only adds fuel to his suspicions.
Looking to make sense of things, and longing to share his suspicions with someone, it falls upon a young girl that is new to the area to befriend the confused farmers son, and advise him on what the best course of action to take is, and how best to prevent his family from being in any danger from the dark forces that are at play around him. F who better then the new housemaid at the big house down the hill, Morven, who has her own experiences with witchcraft prior to arriving there, to share information with and seek advice from.
What follows after the pair become acquainted is an unforgettable read for fans of spooks, witchcraft, and mystery, and I am truly envious of the current generation of chapter book readers having access to such a quality text in libraries and bookshops because this would have been such a treat to enjoy if it had of been available back when I was venturing into the world of chapter books, and secured my love of reading right there and then. Rab and Morven work together to try to prevent rituals and sacrifices from happening during Halloween, and even though there are several setbacks along the way they look as though they will be successful in their endeavours.
Victoria Williamson has woven many threads that intertwine to form this story, and as they overlap and interlink with one another it means that this is far more than a story featuring witches, Halloween, and a hag stone. Readers are kept guessing throughout the entire book as to who or what has caused the dark magic and mayhem to enter Rab’s life, and there is plenty of tension to his tale that will keep readers gripped from one chapter to the next, especially in scenes such as the one where he spots his sister walking away from the family home in the middle of the night, holding their new baby sister in her arms, surrounded by witches that can only be seen through the hag stone. Each scene is so well written that readers will be desperate to discover how the story unfolds, and the significance of the details they uncover along the way as they will Rab to succeed in keeping those he holds dearest safe as he uncovers the truth.
I would love to see a sequel to this book, and really hope to hear that there is one planned, because reading this book has been the epitome of reading for pleasure, and I long to return to this immersive world of Rab and the Burns family.
Sometimes a book comes along that you need to read, you can’t stop thinking about it, and you will do anything to get hold of the book.
When I first saw Hag Storm being talked about on twitter I knew I need to get my hands on the book. This sounded right up my street, it sounded like everything I needed in a book. When it arrived I looked at my TBR pile and I bumped it to the top.
When I started I was constantly talking about it to my family, I was hooked, I could imagine myself as Rab, working all hours on the farm, too tired at the end of a hard day to read, I could hear in my mind the consent noise from all the children. I could feel the children’s excitement when cousin Betty visited but as the book wore on I started to ask myself if Betty really was a witch, something didn’t add up, there was this niggling feeling that I was missing something I knew I had to finish the book to see if I was right. So when my children wanted to go to the park I knew this was an opportunity for some peace and quiet.
I read on and on, and the book got better and better, and I struggled to put the book down. The writing got better and better I got more engrossed in the story. As I got to the end couple of chapters things started to fall, into place, questions I’d had started to be answered.
I was devastated when I’d finished the book.
Victoria Williamson is an amazing author and I’m looking forward to her future books, I can’t wait to see what she produces next.
Hag Storm is published by Cranachan, and is available to purchase from all good booksellers. For more reviews and insight into the book do check out the blog tour, information of which can be found below.