Book Review: The Revelry by Katherine Webber

“She doesn’t get what a big deal it is to sneak into a Revelry that isn’t your own. What the consequences might be – even I don’t know what could happen.

There are so many unwritten rules that thread their way through the lives of everyone in Ember Grove. Pull at one and everything might unravel…”

I’m appallingly late in sharing this review: I saved The Revelry to read on my birthday back in January whilst having a wonderful day in Edinburgh. I’ve been attempting to form coherent, non-spoilery thoughts since, which is hard because this book is amazing.

Ember Grove is a strange, superstitious little place. It’s not welcoming to outsiders, and a lot of things happen there that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else. The Revelry is one of their strangest customs: amazing and terrifying in equal measure. It’s an epic party in the woods thrown once a year for the graduating class and kept secret from everyone else. No-one else knows what happens at a Revelry and no-one who has been to one talks about it afterwards.

Amy and Bitsy have been best friends since Amy moved to Ember Grove eight years ago. I am a sucker for a friendship story. I loved this friendship; the closeness of it, the way they are together, the way they are jealous of anyone who might alter that. I adored the way they always try to protect each other and their little ritual of twisting their hairs together to make a ring to wear which will always guide them back to each other. It reminded me of the intensity of teen friendships (which Katie has perfectly captured here) and made me super grateful for the wonderful best friend I have now.

Amy has found an invitation to this year’s Revelry; it’s not their year, but Amy wants Bitsy to crash it with her. She wants to know what happens. To Amy it sounds like great fun, but Bitsy is terrified. She feels like Amy doesn’t understand; she wasn’t born in Ember Grove, she isn’t one of them. Amy hates being made to feel like an outsider, and sometimes Bitsy does it without thinking. Amy doesn’t see what the big deal with crashing the party is, but we get the clear sense that something awful is going to happen when they do it. Katie’s writing is so evocative and really builds the tension leading up to the Revelry.

I loved the idea of it being held by a lake that is sometimes there and sometimes not; a slightly magical wood that’s not always on your side sounds excellent (in a story anyway. Would I like to visit one? Absolutely not, thank you). I loved the atmosphere, the darkness and the mystery of the Revelry. I loved that we don’t get to see what happened there, other than in flashes of Bitsy’s memory afterwards. We see them enter the Revelry and wake up, a little worse for wear with the hair rings they wore for protection burnt into their skin.

After the Revelry, things take a bad turn for Bitsy. Her dress unravelling at school made me cringe with embarrassment for her, and the spider situation in the cafe nearly made me scream. She tries to talk to Amy, but Amy always has a reasonable explanation. The tension in their friendship gets bigger and bigger, and they have more disagreements. It’s hard to read and to know who to side with because they both have valid points The worse things get for Bitsy the better they get for Amy, and Bitsy is thrown off by this – she’s not used to having things worse than Amy and she really struggles with her change of fortune. Both of them say hurtful things and it sometimes seems like their friendship might never survive, especially when Bitsy becomes convinced there’s a curse and makes friends with someone they met at the Revelry. It becomes almost an obsession for Bitsy and we see it take over every part of her life as things take darker and more confusing turns as more pieces of her memory come back.

This is such a hard book to talk about without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet, so I will wind it up by saying that I loved how it ended. I loved everything about this book, and it was the perfect read to choose for my birthday.


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