Series Review: The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull

This is a review for The Hawkweed Series as it currently stands, with two books released. Based on the ending of the second book, there’s potential for more stories in this world!

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull (Hawkweed Prophecy #1)

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Weinstein Books on June 16, 2016

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed couldn’t lead more different lives.

Irena Brignull’s debut novel THE HAWKWEED PROPHECY is a lyrical, poignant novel that examines what it means to belong, to have power, and to be a woman.

Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed have never fit in with their families or their communities, forever dogged by a feeling of inadequacy and freakishness that they can’t seem to shake. Ember can’t perform magic like her coven sisters can, while Poppy’s own mother is convinced she’s a changeling child.  When these two seemingly dissimilar girls meet, it sets them both on a course that will change their lives forever. A course that was charted more than a hundred years ago…

Brignull combines the ancient practices of witchcraft with the adjacent yet far-removed realities of modern British to create a tantalizing world, although it’s admittedly sparse on the actual magical details. Through Poppy’s eyes, we see that the harsh and precarious world of the witches is also one filled with beauty and communal life; through Ember’s, we see the miracles – and the oddities – of contemporary life with all of its glamourous trappings and scientific progress. I would’ve loved to peek behind the curtain (or caravan, as it were) of coven life even more, and I hope the world building will be expanded upon in the sequel.

The major weakness of THE HAWKWEED PROPHECY is its uneven pacing. More than 50 pages will go by with nothing of consequence happening, and then the most important events in the whole story play out in only a handful of paragraphs. I was also disappointed by the romance, which felt rushed…and a bit ridiculous, given that it becomes a “love square” at one point.

 

The Hawkweed Legacy by Irena Brignull (Hawkweed Prophecy #2)

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Weinstein Books on August 15, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Poppy is discovering a purpose for her powers in Africa, but she is haunted by a vision of her own death.

THE HAWKWEED LEGACY picks up right where its predecessor left off, with both Ember and Poppy aware of their respective lineages and reunited with their biological families. But not all those reunions are equally happy, and much of the story is spent exploring what it means to be coven, clan, or family. Poppy, Ember, and Leo alike all have to reconcile what their gifts – or lack thereof – mean for them and those they choose to call their own.

Brignull does an exceptional job developing this emotional core of the series, and I think readers looking for a poignant story about belonging will find this a rewarding reading experience. I particularly enjoyed learning more about Leo, a boy who’s spent much of his life on the streets until he meets Poppy and Ember. Unfortunately, not all of these emotional moments landed and one in particular left me feeling cold. A central character is raped and the way it’s handled made it seem like a convenient plot device, especially since it receives so little page time. Those who find mentions of sexual assault triggering may want to avoid this book.

The world building that I found so intriguing in the first book still plays a prominent role, and the world itself is expanded upon as Poppy travels to a distant land. While we do see new magics and customs there, I once again felt that they should’ve been more fully explained. I want to know more about the “how” of it all!

Overall, THE HAWKWEED LEGACY is a beautifully written novel about magic and the ties that bind; while it does falter significantly in a few places, it’s still a good story. If you like lyrical and slow-moving stories about witches, romance, and fate, the Hawkweed Prophecy series may be for you!

Have you read any beautifully written YA stories lately? How do you feel about semi-explained magical systems? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Greg Hill

    This sounds really fascinating, and even the title immediately screams fantasy and mystery to me. I like the idea of Poppy and Ember being connected but having to discover how and why. The covers aren’t bad either, especially that second one!

    A love square- yikes! Still other than that and the pacing it sounds pretty dang good. Although I wonder why we have to have so many rape/ sexual assaults in books? Maybe it’s just because as bloggers we read a TON so we come across em but man. Enough geez.

    As for semi- explained magic systems, I kinda like magic to be mysterious and arcane, not fully explained, so that often works for me.

    • The connection between the two girls is definitely fascinating, and Brignull explores it really well. I loved the witchy, kind of otherworldly vibe to this series!

      I know, it was nuts! Like the dude’s cute and all, but really? Seems a bit over the top, haha. Other than the love square and the assault, this series is very strong. I’m not sure why there are so many assaults/rapes in books, but my major problem with them is how little time is devoted to representing the aftermath. WHY would anyone use one as a plot device?! Ugh.

      That’s a good point, Greg! The whole mysterious and arcane thing can be pretty great when
      done well, especially when it comes to witch magic.

  • Ohhh pretty covers, they do make me want a book 😉

  • Karen

    Not for me but I love the covers.

    For What It’s Worth

  • I hadn’t heard of this series, but ooh they sound interesting. I like how it features two strong women at the center with powers. It’s a shame about the uneven pacing though. It sounds like both books could have been stronger had that been executed well. I’ll add these to my library request list!
    Great reviews, Danya!

    • I hadn’t heard of them before either, but I can never resist a story about witches. There’s just something so badass about them…and they almost always come paired with badass women characters. The pacing was a bummer for sure, but even with that it’s still a solid read. Thanks so much, Nick! 🙂

  • Hmmm yeah it definitely sounds cool but probably not my jam. I’m definitely more into battle-packed adventures, even if poorly written. I wish the magic system had been explained more though! IMO few things are more compelling than a consistent and cleverly-used magic system.

    • I know well how much you love action and epic battle scenes, haha. A clever, complex magic system is one of my favourite things about any book these days!

  • I actually like to be thrown into magical worlds with just a little explanation, I think I prefer that to info dumping. But it can be frustrating when you feel as if you’re not getting enough. I think it’s a fine line that not all authors can handle!

    • Oh yeah, I enjoy that too — so long as things are revealed/explained as the story progresses, which wasn’t really the case here. Good point though, some authors can pull off the whole “mysterious world building” thing really well while others can’t!

  • I really like getting lost in magical systems!! And this mixed with witchcraft is definitely an interesting premise!!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    • I’m such a fan of witches that I’ll read pretty much anything that features them! 🙂

  • I’ve always idealized the idea of living in a coven/commune/nunnery, lol. Those three may not see to go together but there is something about that shared community and belief that appeals to me. For that alone this duo sounds interesting. However. I am a little put off by the romance shenanigans – it sounds like the type of approach to romance that would annoy me.

    As far as semi-explained magical systems, I think I’m generally not a fan though if done right it can work. I just don’t like being confused so as long as the book isn’t expecting me to understand something it has presented well then I’m alright with it most of the time.

    • Me too! But maybe that’s because I’m sort of a hippie, haha. The coven aspect of this was so cool, especially because men aren’t allowed in the coven (and in fact they’re considered a curse). Maybe that’s why the romance was so over the top….half the women in this story had never seen a man before or had only seen one once or twice. That said, why were there no queer witches? Hmm.

      That’s a good point — so long as it’s done well, a bit of mystery with the magic system can be welcome. I would’ve loved more detail with this one though!

  • I think I can forget about the semi-part of explanations and worldbuilding if the things around it are good enough that they make me forget about it — especially characterisation. Which it sounds like this book did?

    • It definitely did! The characterization was on point, and I do think Brignull’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. There were some things about the characters that irked me but overall they were well developed.

  • I was intrigued by these two books but I think I’ll give them a miss. Everything sounds like it fell short. Like, it was magical and that’s good but I kind of want to be blown away by books right now and it doesn’t sound like these books quite did that. I prefer things to be explained in full in my books, I want it to feel like there’s a whole history and explanation to things which never even made it to the page but you know it’s there dictating how things develop. Maybe that’s just me.

    • This series kind of reminds me of those books by Anna-Marie McLemore (keeping in mind that I haven’t actually read any of her stuff yet) but not nearly as good, you know? Yes, it’s magical and well-written, but the plot is slow and the character development was a bit inconsistent. The romance was sub-par too, and I’m still mad about the rape. I want to be blown away by books right now too!

  • Oh no, I like love triangles, but I do kind of draw the line at the dreaded love square or any other shape that has more than three sides lol. I’ve yet to find one, at least that I can remember, that was written well or believably. It does sound like these books have some poignancy and depth, but I need more than just that in a book. I’m glad you did find some things you enjoyed in these books, but I don’t think they’d be quite for me.

    • LOL. I can enjoy a love triangle every now and then so long as it actually makes sense, but in this series it’s SO CLEAR who’s meant to end up together that the whole triangle/square thing seems ridiculous. Brignull’s writing is beautiful and that really carried these stories for me, but ultimately I don’t think there’s anything groundbreaking here.

  • Lynn Williams

    Aww, a shame, these look so good too don’t they, but they didn’t quite work out by the sound of it and I don’t really like love triangles so squares is a big no no for me.
    Lynn 😀