TITLE: Sawkill Girls
AUTHOR: Claire Legrand
RELEASE DATE: 2nd October
MY RATING: 4 Stars
“Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.”
Claire Legrand has been on my radar for so long, after the release of Furyborn (which I still haven’t read!) but this was my first actual foray into her writing and I must say I’m impressed! Her writing is vivid, atmospheric and emotive – which is everything this story needs to thrive.
atmosphere and plot – physically recoiling at points, spooky – reminiscent of horror films such as The Ring. Plot was set up throughout – little hints throughout that related to later plot points. Action scenes plau like a movie – fantastic writing
Legrand’s writing really stood out to me a incredibly strong for so many reasons. She did such a great job of making her writing so strongly emotive that it incited physical reactions in me, from atmospheric chills, to such strong empathy for certain character, to physical revulsion at the way certain things were described. At times I found Sawkill Girls reminiscent of certain horror films I’ve seen, which further instilled in me a sense of unease and strong sense of setting. The horses, the hair and the sea all reminded me strongly of The Ring, for example. These references really helped me picture the scenes and visualise it. Further to this, the action scenes were so skillfully written. They really played out in my mind like a film.
While I’m on the subject of the writing, I want to give an special mention to how well the plot was set up throughout. Tiny little hints were left that related to bigger plot points later, big enough to pick up on and make you wonder and theorise, but not enough that it ruined the mystery. Legrand balanced this fantastically.
Sawkill Girls was told from three perspective, all young women. Whilst this book had it’s overarching creepy plot about the island of Sawkill and its demon, The Collector, this book was just as much about the relationships between the female characters. There are plenty of supporting male characters (Grayson, I love you) but at its core this book is about the relationship between women from different walks of life with different prejudices. Val is Sawkill born and bred, Zoey has lived there two years, and Marion moves to Sawkill only at the beginning of the story. As well as this, Zoey suspects Val of having involvement in the disappearance of her best friend. Marion is battling with the recent loss of her father and the effect that it has had on her family. All these different contributing factors come into play when these three women end up seeking each others’ help in troublesome circumstances. How these relationships grow and change as the plot develops and new information is revealed is truly where this book shines.
LGBT and feminism – pits young women against old white dudes who do things one way simply because that was the way it was done by their fathers.
Something that really made this book stand out from a lot of other recent YA releases was it’s inclusion of LGBTQ+ and feminist themes. Out of our 3 core characters, they all fall somewhere into the queer bracket. One is asexual, and two are bisexual/gay (it’s not directly specified where they fall on the scale). This representation of women’s relationships with each other and with their sexualities that different from the heterosexual norm represented in a lot of YA was refreshing. I’m also super impressed by the fact that my last two HarperCollins releases that I’ve read, this and The Lady’s Guide To Petticoats and Piracy (you can find my review here), have both had great LGBTQ+ representation. This feels like a publisher that is finally listening to us and representing their readers. One of the other themes addressed in this book is the idea of young women fighting against old (white) dudes who do things a certain was simply because their fathers did it before them, and their fathers before that. This is a concept that we need to strive to take down, and this book addresses that and shows the strength of what happens when people team up and work together to find a better way. I won’t get too much into this though because spoilers!
I think the place where this book slips from a 5 down to a 4 to me is how far things go towards the end. I think the magical element in this book tends to lean a bit closer to sci-fi than fantasty, and try as I might, I just can’t get into sci-fi! I won’t get to much into this because again, I don’t want to give any spoilers. I just think that the explanations for the supernatural elements of this book are quite sci-fi – they’re linked quite closely to A Wrinkle in Time if that helps to explain a little better, and I think this just went a bit further than what I was looking for from a story like this. The way I see it, fantasy knows it’s magic so it can be as crazy and magical as it wants and its all good because we know it’s magic. However, sci-fi tries to explain things! It tries to use science to give the reader the sense that this could possibly happen and that it’s not just simply made up stuff that is completely impossible and that’s just not what I’m into. Some people might love this deviation into a slightly more sci-fi/fantasty plot line though so this definitely isn’t a negative against the book, just a reason why I didn’t love it enough to be a 5 star read.
Stranger Things meets The Wicked Deep, this one is DEFINITELY worth picking up! I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this one, and when I had to put it down to go to work, I was distraught. It’s gripping and bingeable and should definitely be pushed to the top of your TBR!