Witcheskin by Nem Rowan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
*~~*ARC kindly provided by the author to me in exchange for an honest review *~~*
Following the disappearance of his father, Owen returns to the Welsh village where his parents grew up to live with his mother and her boyfriend. While pursuing the mystery of cattle mutilations in the area, he meets Maredudd, an old friend of his mother’s, and learns something about his parents that they’ve never told him…
This book picked my interest when I saw it on my Twitter timeline, when the author was searching for more reader and made pre-release advertisement. I read the blurb – and honestly I wasn’t sure what to think about the book. Sure, the blurb is interesting but very vague. When I also got the information that this book is pretty dark, has supernatural elements, the use of magic and witches appear, I was capured. But I also pondered if the trigger and content warnings (to be find on the publisher’s website, here under “content notes”) of verbal abuse & transphobia, the graphic display of animal mutilation and other heavy parts would be something I could endure. When I decided yes, I’ll give the book a try and read further the first page I was hooked.
Yes, the author Nem Rowan describes the scenery in a very graphic way, the natural beauty is visible before your inner eye, which – of course – makes the graphic, gory scenes and description of the dead animals less pleasant. It’s the mix and the curiousity you feel as a reader; I admit I liked it because it was totally making sense to be this graphic, although I’ve to say it was almost poetic and lyrical and that had a special appeal. It’s kind of a morbid curiosity, something you either like or not.
From the first page on I was with Owen, our protagonist. He is suffering living in the isolated, pretty bigot and transphobic acting village in Wales, where his mother has her roots. On the one hand he feels connected through the village with his dead/missing father, on the other hand he is confronted with people who know about his transition and have a distant behaviour towards him, whereas his mother’s boyfriend/lover Geraint is the worst in calling him by his old name & never acknowledging his new identity. In fact he is fueled by hatred and tries to rile up Owen whenever he can.
The main problems and the thrilling parts are all connected to Geraint but I won’t tell how because it would take a majority of the suspense. 😉 I can just say the revealings are surprising, it’s really captivating how Nem Rowan is able to hook you as the reader. Within one book there are so many (new) things you learn, but you aren’t this overwhelmed because the connection is there, the explanation is given & the way how it’s displayed is fascinating and intriguing together.
I also loved the romantic relationship between Owen and Maredudd and I laughed so often when both behaved humorous and had their small banter and witty comments. I want to stress out that Maredudd and Owen have an age gap of 15 years, so if this isn’t your thing, you should maybe not read it. If you love things like this, go and get the book. 🙂
I was also totally fond of Maredudd’s father Morcant – and his appearance is a pretty remarkable, just saying 😉 – and Owen’s mother Wenda was a great secondary character too.
I really loved how Owen and Maredudd’s realationship grew within the book and how connected they are. There is an intimacy which is different than Owen has to his mother for example and for the first time he feels understood, feels connected to someone truly. If you expect really explicit intimate scenes between them, there are a few but the majority is a display of their affection through kisses and touches, very tender and sweet, although there is enough innuendo. I loved this balance & I can’t wait to see more of them together, of their daily life.
This debut work totally nailed it and I can recommend it wholeheartedly. If you are okay with on-page transphobia, verbal abuse, graphic display of violence, animal mutilation, talk of suicide and on the other hand be fond of dark(er) magic, supernatural elements, love age gaps, you’ll probably want to pick the book up & maybe even love it as much as I did. 5 out of 5 stars for it.