Title: The Forest of Moon and Sword
Author: Amy Raphael
Genre: Historical fiction, Adventure
Publisher: Lothian/Hachette Australia
Published: 12th January 2021
Synopsis: When Art’s mother is accused of witchcraft and captured, she is determined to get her back – at any cost. A lyrical adventure with folklore at its heart, for fans of THE HOUSE WITH CHICKEN LEGS.
Twelve-year-old Art lives in a small village in Scotland. Her mother has always made potions that cure the sick, but now the townspeople say she is a witch. One cloudless night, Art’s mother is arrested and taken to England.
Art mounts her horse, taking a sword, a tightrope, and a herbal recipe book, and begins a journey through wild forests, using nature’s signs and symbols to guide her.
But will she spot the signs from the omens? Will she reach her mother, before it’s too late?
Set in the wilds of Scotland and England during the height of the witch hunts of the seventeenth century, Amy Raphael’s novel captures the stunning character of Art Flynt and her journey from Scotland to Essex to save her mother. Art’s mother has been accused of being a witch, and destined to be executed on the summer solstice.
Over a week, Art travels across a wild and dangerous landscape, hiding from the Witch Hunters and doing whatever she can to survive using nature and what she has learned from her mother. Art has the wisdom of wise women, or as they are seen in this novel, and as they were seen in the 1600s, evil witches.
Folklore and history are at the very heart of this book, drawing on the witch trials in England, the importance of the summer solstice and the role that herbs and poultices played in the lives of these women. Art’s only twelve, yet she is worldly and knows what has to be done to save herself, save her mother, and save Mercy, a young girl she meets on her journey who helps her on her journey to save Art’s mother.
Amy Raphael’s story takes a confronting and dark period in history – the witch hunts of the seventeenth century in England which spanned a period from 1563 to about 1750, and spins it into a story of family, loyalty and the power of women and women friends and family. The strength of this novel is in the friendship between Mercy and Art, and the history of the witch trials smattered throughout the novel. At uni, I studied a course called the Art of Magic, exploring magic and witches from ancient times to the witch trials, and to see this encapsulated in a novel for kids is fascinating and I loved it!
In writing this review, I did some research to check a few facts about the witch hunts for my own interest and got distracted. It’s such a fascinating subject, and so few novels explore this topic in depth or with much consideration – at least in my reading. I also loved the setting and could feel and sense everything about it and Art’s journey. It felt familiar yet new at the same time, and when combined, the plot and the setting worked wonders for the characters and the reader, bringing everything together in a magical way.
This is another one of those books that I would have loved at age ten. There were times when sometimes, I just wanted something different to read than what I had or could get. I still loved all of those, but this would have been great to read then. Another aspect I loved was the historical accuracy of the witch tests – which were described in enough detail to capture the moment, yet done so in an appropriate way for younger readers, and all is seen through the eyes of Art as she tells the story of what happens. It really puts you into the time and place in a relatable way, and pulls together history, magic and themes of loyalty and friendship that all readers will love.
This captivating novel kept me enthralled over two days of reading, and is one that kids aged ten and older, and anyone who likes a good adventure story filled with magic and history will enjoy.