Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy
Water Shall Refuse Them is a vaporous exploration of malice and teenage angst
It's the heatwave of 1976 and, struggling with grief after her little sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Nif finds herself on a family retreat in Wales. But Nif is plagued by dreams and questions. Who rang the phone, distracting her mother, while her sister lay drowning in the bath? Nif seeks answers from witchcraft, collecting dark talismans and putting faith in ‘the Creed’. Feeling lost and distant from a grief-stricken mother and a busy father, she finds solace and company in the village loner, Mally, a teen boy who indulges in secret rituals of his own.
With a haze of themes including duality, neglect and folk horror, Water Shall Refuse Them is a vaporous exploration of malice and teenage angst. Hardy has crafted spellbinding prose, forcing the reader to confront the oppressive burn – palpable, scorching the pages – and darker aspects of human behaviour, such as animal cruelty (consider that your trigger warning).
Yet, towards the end, the novel seems to go cold: there are some unlikely switches in character behaviour and the pace lags, giving the reader too much time to figure out how the captivating plot will conclude. Despite the shift in the closing chapters, this is a darkly evocative coming-of-age narrative, sweltering in intrigue and suspense.
Dead Ink, 4 Jul, £9.99