The Wicker King by K. Ancrum is not like any other book I’ve read before.
It was actually a ‘Bookstagram Made Me Buy It’ book – enough people squeaked about it and it looked so pretty that an accidental Amazon purchase happened. Instagram is a dangerous place sometimes…
Before I tell you what I thought, here’s the book blurb:
When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.
August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.
The book itself is very visual – the pages slowly blooming from cream, to grey, to black, as you advance through the story and August and Jack sink deeper into their respective mental issues. There are images throughout as well, that add to the story. Including mix tapes/CDs with listings that give you an insight into the main characters in an unusual way – you can tell a lot about a person by what they listen to. (And yes, I sat down and listened to all the songs on all the playlists.)
The relationship between Jack and August was a truly powerful thing – you are never sure who relies on the other more – and this complete reliance and dependency is at times touching, and at others alarming. The whole book is of them walking the finest of lines and they never fall off the way you expect them to.
It took a while for me to settle into the style of The Wicker King and at first I wasn’t sure about it… but then suddenly I was utterly absorbed and crying in public and not even vaguely caring because I HAD to keep reading. My kids were off in a field somewhere covered in mud and probably falling out of trees but I was paying exactly zero attention because I was lost in Jack & August’s story. I had the worst pins and needles ever when I finally finished and stood up – it turns out perching on rocks without moving for long periods of time is unadvisable. Oops.
(Both children were perfectly fine, by the way. Grubby but happy, the way I like them best. They kept checking on me, even if I was ignoring them – they know how good books work!)
As well as the mental health side of the book, the story is also very much about love, and the different kinds of love there are. It’s about how confusing it is figuring all of that out, finding your feet in a world where everybody expects you to be one thing or another, and discovering that it is okay to be both, or neither.
I very much enjoyed The Wicker King and I am, ultimately, pleased that Bookstagram made me do it.