I was intrigued to read Emilia Hart’s debut novel Weyward, published in the UK earlier this month, as the subject of witchcraft is something I always find interesting. The novel is set in three different time periods, something which doesn’t always work for me, but in this case the three storylines are so closely linked that I found the structure very effective.
The three female protagonists are referred to as the ‘weyward sisters’, a term which evolved from ‘weird sisters’ in Shakespeare’s First Folio and is used to refer to the three witches in Macbeth. In 2019, we meet Kate, a young woman trapped in an abusive relationship who has inherited a cottage from her great-aunt, Violet. In 1942, we learn about Violet as a girl of sixteen living at Orton Hall with her father and trying to find out more about her mother. The third of the weyward women is Altha Weyward who lives in Crows Beck in the early 17th century and is on trial for witchcraft.
The three women are linked not just by a family connection, but also through a shared love of nature. They are able to draw power from the natural environment and find comfort in surrounding themselves with plants and animals even at the most difficult of times. The male characters don’t come out of this book very well, but I did like Violet’s brother Graham and the little we learn of Kate’s father.
The three narratives are written in different styles using different combinations of first and third person and past and present tense, so I never felt confused as to whose story I was reading. Parts of Kate’s story towards the end were quite predictable, but otherwise all three storylines were gripping and kept me hooked right until the end.
Overall, I enjoyed Weyward. It wasn’t as focused on witchcraft as I expected, but it was an interesting and unusual novel about the magic of nature and the obstacles faced by women over the centuries. I will definitely be looking out for more from Emilia Hart.