The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull : witches and magic and female friendship



The Hawkweed Prophecy is quite an impressive read.


It felt like one of those books that just … knows what it’s doing. It felt clear-minded, and precise, and focused.


And if the above statement made exactly 0.00001% sense to you, please allow me to explain.


Going into this novel, I honestly did not have many high expectations. And the reason why stems particularly from the initial laying-down of key plot points. What was wrong with said plot points? They seemed … recycled. A bit cliché, perhaps. On the outset, and before the reader delves deeper into the pages, all they know is this: there’s a prophecy, and a chosen one, and two girls oblivious to everything around them, and a boy with a tragic backstory. Do you see where this could’ve gone? Straight down a predicatable path, that’s where.


But Brignull is better than that. She took a story that had the potential to go either really really well or really really bad, and made it spectacular.


And the question now become is: how. How is this book special. Why is it special. And, ladies and gentlemen, that is precisely the reason why I’m here today.




  • One of this book’s greatest strengths is the great female friendship that develops between our two leads. Poppy, quite rebellious and tough, befriends Ember, who is much more shy and withdrawn and awkward. They exchange ideas, they come to trust the other, and they ultimately recognize the other as a best friend, without being overly sappy about it, and without it feeling too forced or fabricated. And I honestly did not see this coming. There are an awfully few number of female friendships in YA (the only genuine ones I can think of, really, are Nina/Inej and Kestrel/Sarsine) and it felt quite refreshing to see this aspect in a contemporary novel. Bless this book.



  • The family aspect, too, was developed with finesse. Ember lives with quite an extended family, but the focus is mainly on her mother, aunt, and cousin. Poppy lives with her father, visits her hospitalized mother, and has to deal with a lot bumps in the road here and there. But both care deeply about their family members, and those members are not treated like plot devices. Instead, if the story were to abruptly switch to Ember’s cousin or Poppy’s mother, the plotline would not suffer for it because every supporting character has ample page time to be fleshed out enough. The plotline would, if anything, be enhanced should this technique be deployed. And let me just say, very few books have this capability. Very few. For context: the last time I read a book that can pull this off, it was The Hate U GIve by Angie Thomas. Yes, I’m going there.




  • The writing style is gorgeously eloquent, and has an almost fairytale-like air. The opening chapters have a nice thrilling/foreboding tension to them that make the reader lean forward to listen closely, metaphorically speaking. The sentence structure and word choice are crisp and clean. This can’t be debut, guys. It can’t. Because that writing style is on point. And: if you didn’t already know, Irena Brignull is a screenwriter. But unlike other author-y screenwriters (*cough* Victoria Aveyard *cough*), Brignull does not spend most paragraphs solely on description. There’s character development, too, and that is addressed. Common mistake is avoided in this case, and excuse me, but I must give a standing ovation here. Step back.





But. Now I realize your eyes may be flicking back and forth from all this praise to the missing star out of the five, and you’re thinking: Why did you knock a star off the rating if you liked it so much, Nina? 


Well, I’ve got an answer. Buckle up.


Some aspects of The Hawkweed Prophecy were a bit … irregular. Such as:


  • The 4-way love triangle, or love parallelogram as I like to call it, got a bit ridiculous. Three girls fall for the same guy: Leo, a homeless boy who is actually quite sweet. Poppy finds him first, then Ember, then Sorrel. Come on. That’s crazy, and frankly lazy on the girls’ part. You live in, or near, a city with at least a hundred more guys. Surely you could’ve gone out and found another instead of pining after your cousin’s? I don’t know, but this was a bit .. unbelievable. But! I did like how Poppy is not very possessive (and is actually quite selfless) in this regard, so Ember and Poppy and Leo had a Tessa-Will-Jem complex, which I liked very much-ly. That’s what, again, makes this book special. Nice save, but it could have been easily avoided.



  • The witches’ power was unexplained, and too limitless. Guys, the witches are literal goddesses. They can create mountains, and shape-shift, and change the weather, and tear another human apart, and make potions, and heal the wounded. What are their weaknesses? No one knows. Can you dampen their magic? Maybe not. Can they tire themselves out? Apparently, no. The magic needed a bit more (okay, a lot more) boundaries or rules. Otherwise, the witches are just unstoppable. And we can’t have that, now, can we? Answer: Of course we can’t. Yes, this is fantasy, but we need to get a bit real.




These are just, of course, my thoughts! This may not bother you at all, but I’m a bit picky with my fantasy.


Sorry not sorry.


Wait wait! There’s a GIF for that somewhere. Hold on a sec.



Ah, there we go. Listen to Demi Lovato, guys. Listen to her. She may be a better reviewer than I. (Okay, maybe not).




Overall? I am quite impressed with The Hawkweed Prophecy. Very impressed.


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pick up book 2 (which I hear is awesome). Wish me luck.



Thank you, Weinstein Books, for providing me with a review-copy in exchange for an honest review!







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