The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.
Jack once saved August’s life…now can August save him?
August is a misfit with a pyro streak and Jack is a golden boy on the varsity rugby team—but their intense friendship goes way back. Jack begins to see increasingly vivid hallucinations that take the form of an elaborate fantasy kingdom creeping into the edges of the real world. With their parents’ unreliable behavior, August decides to help Jack the way he always has—on his own. He accepts the visions as reality, even when Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy.
August and Jack alienate everyone around them as they struggle with their sanity, free falling into the surreal fantasy world that feels made for them. In the end, each one must choose his own truth.
Written in vivid micro-fiction with a stream-of-consciousness feel and multimedia elements, K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King touches on themes of mental health and explores a codependent relationship fraught with tension, madness and love.
“My mom once told me that being alone makes you feel weaker every day, even if you’re not, […] But it’s not as bad if you’re with other people who are alone, too.”
I really enjoyed this book and I think it will stay with me for a while. Most books don’t really make me feel as much as The Wicker King made me feel. I just found it amazing. Writing this review made me want to reread it so much. I loved the characters and what they went through. Their journey just hit me in all the right ways. Books like this are what I want more of in urban fantasy1.
The Wicker King follows two seventeen year old boys through an adventure in which every single adult in their lives fails them. August’s father left him and his mother, and his mother didn’t cope well. This left August to care for her and the house, mostly by selling drugs at school. And then his best friend, Jack, starts seeing things. Another world, overlaid on top of the real one. They don’t know what to make of it. It seems so real and it is getting worse. It is taking over Jack’s vision. And the two are left to deal with this on their own, as Jack’s parents aren’t anywhere to be found.
There is a charm to The Wicker King that, when I find it, I love to hold on to. That feeling of not knowing what to trust. Not knowing what is reality. But there is also that feeling of being in this together. Even though August cannot see what Jack does, all he wants to do is help his friend. He just doesn’t know how to help him. This is a very serious situation, they don’t have any help, and they feel like they’re completely alone.
The Wicker King is also one of the gayest books I’ve read. I say this with only the most admiration in mind. This may be a bit weird since both of them aren’t strictly gay. Yet in every action both August and Jack take, you can feel how much love each one has for the other. The Wicker King just has this indefinable something where you know they love each other and would do anything for each other, but it isn’t just because they grew up with each other and it isn’t just because they are each other’s best friend. And it is beautiful because while you, the reader, may know it, they don’t. They go through a period of discovery. Or at least August does, since we spend the entire book in his head.
I saw a Booktuber read this, which prompted me to read it and get the paper version and I so don’t regret it. This is only the second book I’ve read in paper form in the last two years. And I got it because of how uniquely interesting the paper version was to me. As the book goes on, the pages get darker and darker, until it becomes black and the text is white. This darkness added to my enjoyment of the book so much more than I thought it would. I just absolutely sank into the story and read the entire book in a few hours. The story itself ramped up the stress involved, but I truly believe the print version added to it with this design choice. There were also pictures and drawings and other little things added that I’m not certain I would have gotten as much out of in ebook form. Especially since my current ebook background is a woman in front of a dragon.
My favourite part of The Wicker King was just how well it was written in regards to mental illness and abuse. In a less capable author, this book would have been tragically bad. Fortunately, K. Ancrum did a beautiful job depicting all the topics she chose to bring up. And there were so many, too. And every single one of them added to the total, fantastical story. I really recommend reading the author’s note at the end of the book, too, because it adds a lot of context to the story. This is going to be a book that hits a little bit too close to home for a lot of people. And it is going to hurt some people. So just beware of that going in.
I just loved reading this book. I found so many good things about it that that is all I want to talk about. There were some things that weren’t as good, like the fact that the chapters are often only one page long. Which was a bit odd, coming from chapters that typically take 8-30 minutes to read. But overall I loved this. I also read the companion novella, The Legend of the Golden Raven, which I loved just as much as the book. It takes Jack’s point of view through a particularly tumultuous period in the book, while also showing some of the story of what Jack sees. I recommend this if you liked the book.
1. This is not really urban fantasy, it is more contemporary fantasy. However that Is not a genre label that is often used.