Diana Wynne Jones died last week. I hadn’t read all that much by her, but “Witch Week” was my favorite book when I was about 11, and it’s a really amazing read.
The story is about an alternate UK where the Gunpowder Plot succeeded, and witches are not only real, but still burned at the stake — all taking place in a boarding school for “witch orphans.” When it starts becoming clear that one of the kids at the school IS a witch, teachers, other kids, and the government start hunting for who it is.
Apart from being well-written, “Witch Week” is EXTREMELY dark for what is essentially a young adult novel. The whole idea is that there are people ready and willing to kill children for who and what they are. The protagonist (or one of them) burns his hand on a candle to the point of blistering and bleeding to remind himself what the stakes are. And it was written in the early eighties, when it was rarer than now for any kind of kids lit to be that dark, I think.
This is neither here or there, but the book is also an interesting corollary to the (overrated, I think) comic and movie V for Vendetta, where Guy Fawkes is essentially reborn as an anarchic hero. In “Witch Week,” the Gunpowder Plot is presented as an act so evil that it would have basically blown apart the universe and the timeline if it succeeded.
But it’s a great book, and everybody should read it. I should also read the rest of the Chrestomanci series, which it is (sort of) a part of, and I’ve never gotten around to.