For those who don’t know, the weird sisters who appear in Shakespeare’s Macbeth were known in the original folio of the play as the “weyward sisters”. Those who do know this will twig from the title that Emilia Hart’s debut Weyward deals with the subject of witches and witchcraft. Those who do not will be keyed in fairly quickly when the book opens in 1619 with what can only be a witch trial.
Weyward concerns itself with three strands of the same lineage. Altha, writing in 1619, Violet who is sixteen in 1942 and the daughter of a Viscount, and Kate in 2017 planning to escape from an abusive relationship. The plot will circle in and around these three characters, bringing their stories slowly together until each impacts on the others. In doing so it will explore the power inherent in the Weyward line but also the way each of the three has had to deal with powerful and controlling men and issues of abuse, both physical and sexual, control and manipulation.
Weyward comes in a tradition of books which seek to reclaim witchcraft from the horror story and tradition of superstition and fear. Other recent books that take this approach include Alix Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches which places its action around the suffragist movement and Madeline Miller’s Greek mythology retelling Circe. Hart is interested in a connection to nature and a tradition of healing and nurturing, although Weyward has more than hint of darkness and violence when necessary. Taken all together, Weyward is a compelling, page-turning debut with plenty to say about the capacity to make a stand and reclaim power in the face of abuse.