Okay you know that old phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’? Well I do that a lot I’m afraid. I can’t help it, if a cover is eye catching I’m more likely to pick it up in a bookshop. That’s kind of what happened here, I mean look at it:
I love graphic novels, as someone whose sole artistic talent is that I can draw a cute cartoon elephant, I hugely admire people who can draw. As someone who also loves horror, Wytches looked like exactly the sort of thing I’d enjoy. I bought it for a friend for Christmas last year, and then I also bought myself a copy because it looked so good.
The art in this book is beautiful, every image is a detailed layered thing. The end of the book details inspiration and how its made using a mix of digital and hand painted art for multimedia effect, so if you’re interested in that sort of this it’s definitely worth sticking around after the story ends.
Now don’t get me wrong, at times the colourful layered effect did slightly obscure my ability to read it – but I was extremely tired, and it’s very pretty, so I’m going to forgive it.
Wytches follows Sailor Rooks and her family as they move to a new town in the hopes they can escape her ‘secret’ and find themselves surrounded by an even bigger and more bloodthirsty one – there are witches in the woods. Now these aren’t old crones in pointed hats, they are horrifying creatures who offer reward in exchange for human sacrifices. In order to ‘pledge’ someone to be killed so you get things, you rub Pledge on them. Pledge here is a green goop that draws the witches near, not this:
Do Americans have Pledge polish?
The story does this sense of claustrophobic inevitability really well. By the time they realise something is wrong, it’s too late to get away – and once you’ve been pledged, they will find you no matter where you run. Tying into popular witch-based stories with the woodland setting and the fact that ginger grows by the entrance to their lair – a nod to the classic story of Hansel and Gretel – and combining it with hideous flesh-eating, inescapable magical monsters, and most frighteningly reality, the writers create a story that feels unnervingly realistic.
Not all of the horror and mistreatment is magic based though. We see Sailor’s father trying to help her overcome her anxiety by making her climb a derelict ferris wheel, and we see people literally pledging their loved ones to a grisly death so they can live longer, or be wealthier. There is also a scene in this novel where a bully threatens Sailor at knife-point and uses quite graphic and sexual threats, just a note of warning. Though they are then dragged backwards into a tree by wytch-demons so at least they get what they deserve.
Overall I did really enjoy this book, and I’d definitely read the further installations – as with many a graphic novel, it was over far too soon – and it’s a gem of a horror story with a truly eerie atmosphere and quite an original concept.
Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖 4 books out of 4.