Witch Crag by Kate Cann is a dystopian novel - rather different to her usual here and now novels. Having read some other dystopian novels (the post-apocalyptic Ann Aguirre Razorland trilogy and the Hunger Games trilogy) Witch Crag is a welcome addition to this YA genre. I find Cann's descriptions far softer and subtle than the harshness and ferocity of Razorland and the Hunger Games. Although hundreds of horrible things happen in Cann's book it is dealt with a more sympathetic humane way by the lead character Kita. Kita's whole character is based around her unique (in her community) desire to lead a better life, join people, escape the strict discipline of the SheepMen. Although through her journey with her two friends she hardens and becomes less shocked by the horrors in her world she still strives to create a world that will be better for them all and join the various communities together.
Witch Crag has various great aspects - a well-developed thought out romantic relationship for Kita, a thrilling journey to safety, a monumental change in the societies of the various tribes, and a exciting war between the tribes and the city (as long as the tribes unite in time).
Kita is strong, pretty (but not pretty enough to be chosen for a horsemen bride), determined and passionate. When she realises her best friend Quainy is being effectively sold to the horsemen as a bride to guarantee the tribes pact she decides they need to leave.... and summon all their courage and flee to the Witch Crag where the feared witches are supposed to live. Kita might have decided there was possibly little to fear from the witches but persuading Quainy and their other friend Raff to leave for there will be more difficult. Over the book Kita faces several challenges with her friends that lead to them becoming a little seperated from each other (Quainy and Raff falling in love and Kita being left out) as Kita begins to discover her 'witch powers' her friends become a little nervous around her and Kita slowly becomes paranoid and hardens.
Quainy and Raff
Both important minor characters they flee with Kita from Sheep Men Fort and slowly develop a relationship out from under the arranged marriages of the Sheep Fort. They prove to be useful for the journey both each contributing to saving the group when they are in the city.
Arc is one of the sheepmen's footsoldiers and he falls for Kita. Kita doesn't realise this thinking Arc is just out for another conquest, another notch under his belt, but when he attempts to scale Witch Crag the place all the men fear and is captured by the witches she realises that maybe, just maybe, he means more to her than she thought. He also shows to be made of the same cloth as Kita - protective, passionate and open minded.
This is one of the best books I've read in a while. Kate Cann weaves a beautiful story which explores a young girl's efforts to save the life she knows and all her friends. The paranormal aspect of this novel is not very big or loud and I think this really does contribute to the novel's overall effect as it is not smothering and intrusive.
This book is published by Scholastic and can be bought from Amazon for £3.84. At this small price you really won't regret it!
A Definite 4 out of 5!