The Last Witch is the story of Saoirse, a young Irish girl who just wants to beat her best friend Padraig to the witch’s tower on the outskirts of town one Imbolc, never mind the superstitions about witches coming out to prey on children that very day. Her father totally busts her for venturing into forbidden territory, and while Padraig slips away, she gets sent back to the village to mind her younger brother Brahm. He isn’t feeling very well, and their dad wants her to fix some soothing tea for him. Resentfully, she does so, but once she thinks Brahm is asleep, she sets out to find Padraig and prove that she’s just as brave as he is, if not more.
Alas, Brahm only pretended to be sleeping and demands she take him with her. Saoirse reluctantly accedes, but while walking through the forest, they run into their wise grandmother, Nan, who promises to keep their secret: every kid needs a little adventure in their life, after all. After another long walk, Saoirse and Brahm reach the hedge that’s meant to block off the forbidden area, and think they hear Padraig calling for them. It’s not a spoiler to say that it isn’t Padraig, or to say that what the siblings encounter will turn their lives upside down. Soon, they’re on the run with their Nan as Saoirse must learn to control her powers in order to stop a great evil from destroying the entire world.
Rooted in Celtic myth, this was a wildly entertaining, beautifully illustrated tale of a young girl’s coming-of-age while fighting evil and trying to protect those she loves. Saoirse has to face down elemental witches and grapple with the cost of both power and sacrifice. Brahm is a delightful companion, just the perfect younger brother: not so cute or helpless as to be annoying, but not so resourceful as to seem completely unrealistic either. Honestly, some of the discussions Brahm had with Saiorse made my eyes well up. He’s pretty much the gold standard of younger sidekicks for me now.
I was deeply impressed with how V. V. Glass’ and Natalia Nesterenko’s talents combined to bring Conor McCreery’s words to life. Apart from depicting compelling characters and fluid movement, they’re tasked with scenes straight out of fantasy — some delightful and some downright disturbing, tho nothing out of place for a YA book — and particularly tricky elemental battles. The scenes with the Wind Witch stood out for the sheer level of craft put into the artwork. There were a few rough edges, but overall, this was a magnificent graphic novel, from art to story to words. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books.
The Last Witch: Fear & Fire (The Last Witch #1-5) by Conor McCreery, V.V. Glass & Natalia Nesterenko was published September 14 2021 by BOOM! Box and is available from all good booksellers, including