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Book Review

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Bryony: Harnessing the Power


Author: Emma Hamilton
Publisher: The Book Guild
282 pages
RRP: £8.99
ISBN: 978 1 913208 28 8
Publication Date: 28 February 2020

When Bryony thinks, incorrectly, that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, she unleashes her wild magical power at work. Fleeing her home, with her friend Pierre, because of the destruction she has caused, her trust in her friend is strained when he places her into a trance. Waking up, Bryony quickly discovers that she is in 1863 at the height of the American Civil War…

Bryony: Harnessing the Power (282 pages) is a young adult fantasy novel, written by Emma Hamilton.

Although the book posits a similar situation as that found in Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, these are very different books. Bryony: Harnessing the Power touches on the issues surrounding slavery, but only in a surface way. This is not necessarily an issue as the two books are trying to do different things with the same premise. In her favour, Bryony is white and so finds her time in the past far less harrowing than if she had been black.

Presumably, the book is meant to form part of a longer series as the novel posits many questions, without adequately answering them. This is not to say that the story doesn’t work as a stand-alone tale, it’s just that not all the plot threads are neatly wrapped up.

This is a coming of age novel and Bryony starts as emotional, to the point where she will have outbursts of her magical powers. In her own mind, her ability to use her powers is linked to all the pain she holds on to, a belief which is ultimately challenged.

When she first arrives in 1863 she rescues a young black boy from drowning, a significant act, which is wholly insignificant to the plot. However this leads her to a white family who help escaping slaves who pretty much take her at her word and agree to accompany her to town.

There she runs in to Pierre, who has not aged a day. He agrees to help her return to her own time, where upon they seek out the help of first, a white witch and then some Native Americans. I’m not spoiling the plot as this and more are printed on the reverse of the book.

It works well as a coming of age story. Although conflicted, Bryony is a likable character to spend some time with. If the moral of the tale is that you don’t have to hang on to anger to be powerful then the story works. On the other hand, I’m not sure why the author would set it in this particular time period as neither the war nor the moral problems surrounding slavery are addressed in any meaningful way.


Charles Packer

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