The Wise One is a delightfully spooky tale starring a reincarnated witch, mystics who are conservation radicals, and a host of mystical creatures found in Scottish and Irish folklore. As any fan of the Shadowhunter universe would sagely caution: all the stories are true. This is a lesson that Makenna (the Wise One) will have to quickly accept, if she wants to stay one step ahead of the magical forces hunting her, and her mother, whom she has never met. The only problem is that Makenna is very logical, and has been told nothing of her supernatural heritage by her father Sean, and his husband Andre. In fact, they have always led her to believe that she was the product of a surrogacy, and that they have no ties to her mother. But when Makenna discovers that this is untrue, she sets off on a highly illogical journey to Ireland, with her new best friend Nissa, to uncover that truth of who she is, where she came from, and what happened to her mother.
In order to avoid any spoilers, I don’t want to discuss the plot in any more detail. I will say only that it moves quickly, and for the most part believably, from adventure to adventure as Nissa and Makenna uncover the secrets of their pasts, and race against time to keep Makenna safe from a fate she doesn’t yet understand. One aspect I particularly enjoyed is that the villain in the story is far more interesting than a typical evil sorceress, in that she and her followers are trying to end human abuse to Mother Nature, in an effort to stop climate change. The only problem, of course, is the methods they plan to use to accomplish that noble goal…involving the destruction of millions of souls. This naturally gives Makenna no small incentive to try to stay out of their reach until she can find her mother, and learn how to fulfill her fate without causing mass destruction. Pretty heavy concepts for a YA Fantasy novel right? But, I believe young people will enjoy pondering the question: what can be done to reverse the damage being done to our planet, while still allowing for longer life spans and expansion of the population? While a massive purge of souls is clearly not the answer, something must be done, and I firmly believe that our current young adult population will be the ones to find an answer to that question.
This book is fun and spooky despite all that, as Makenna faces down a vengeful ghost, meets a coven of witches, and explores the beautiful Irish countryside. As Makenna and Nissa travel, they learn as much about Irish folklore as they do about Irish politics in the time of The Troubles from their mysterious guide, Cillian. There is a budding romance between Makenna and Cillian as well, that is tested by his loyalties and goals for Ireland’s future. I have a feeling that the series being set toward the end of The Troubles (the time period of violent strife between Protestant loyalists and Catholic nationalists, over whether Northern Ireland should be part of the UK or the rest of Ireland) will have greater importance in future books of the series, and I look forward to seeing how that will be interwoven with the need for conservation…and with the magical fate of the Wise One.
All in all, this is an excellent YA fantasy…it ends on Samhain, making it perfect for this season that we are moving into, and serves as a reminder of the natural world’s cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. After all no matter how dark the metaphorical night, or how cold the metaphorical winter, eventually spring will arrive, bringing new hope for the future.