by Lucy Coats (Author)
Coats has explained in interviews that ‘hootcat’ is an old English word for a barnowl, and that after she heard the word, ideas germinated around it and a novel was born. She has also spoken publicly about her personal experiences of bullying, and has done much to raise awareness of it in her writing and in interviews. In Hootcat Hill, the central character of Linnet Perry (or the Maiden) suffers bullying by her peers on an almost daily basis for being slightly different. Linnet isn’t a normal teenager: in her home town of Wyrmsbury, in an England more magical and archaic than we’re used to, Linnet becomes the Maiden, whose role it is to protect the world from a ravenous beast buried beneath. When she comes to her full powers, Linnet uses her ability to send a swarm of bees upon her bullies, and Coats negotiates the ideas of when the victim becomes bully and whether violence is a reasonable response to violence. The first half of the book feels indebted to the major writers of fantasy for children: there is a strong sense of Lewis, of Garner, of Cooper. However, halfway through, Coats develops a strongly individual authorial presence. Her use of Gaelic as the language of spells and magic works particularly well, as does her use of Arthurian myths and imagery.