Nikki McWatters, Saga, University of Queensland Press, November 2019, 376 pp., RRP $19.95 (pbk) ISBN: 9780702262517
This is a satisfying final novel to an original and clever trilogy. Starting with Hexenhaus in 2016, continuing with Liberty last year, Saga concludes, with the same format and strong themes. McWatters creates resilient and powerful characters, women fighting for justice, who form unbreakable bonds, ensuring both immediate family and the larger community are kept safe.
The story thread featuring Astrid develops the oldest timeline, the first timeline: An ingenious idea to end at the start. Astrid’s native (pagan) Nordic beliefs clash with the emerging Christian religion, and change is inevitable. How she navigates this path is intense and immersive. Mercy’s 19th century Glasgow story is empowering and moving – her attempts to ensure forgotten people are given some dignity in death by writing memorable obituaries are significantly emotional moments. The third story in each book has a contemporary angle, always set in Australia, which connects young readers to their own context and timeline. Mia’s story in Saga, is particularly difficult for those of us who have followed the three books. But sometimes, heart-breaking situations open new doors and possibilities (trying not to spoil anything here).
The short chapters send readers from one story to the next in quick succession, usually leaving a question to be answered. This helps to keep readers speculating and of course, turning the pages. Whereas Hexenhaus highlights the plight of ‘witches’ throughout the ages, and Liberty focuses on freedom, Saga is all about story: The ways in which we connect through story, especially down through generations of family. The cyclic nature of the three novels blends historical fact and fictional women, allowing us to understand the important roles they played in creating community and passing on tradition.
With three different characters, readers may find one story more appealing and that’s okay. Each book has one story that ends sadly, but there’s always hope and the ongoing belief that change and progress may occur, albeit slowly and not without suffering. McWatters has crafted three worthy titles, highly recommended for senior readers who love learning while reading, and who desire empowerment.
Reviewed by Trish Buckley
Read Trish’s Q&A with Nikki here