When his best friend Mac starts acting like a jerk after a fortune teller prophesies that he’ll be king of the Scottish games, budding investigator Horatio Wilkes thinks it’s just a bad mood, until Mac’s grandfather Duncan ends up dead.
Something Wicked is a clever, edgy young adult retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which happens to be my absolute favorite Shakespeare play. Author Alan Gratz doesn’t hew too closely to the plot of the Scottish play, taking what works, riffing on what’s memorable, and throwing out what would slow him down. In other words, don’t look for Mac’s evil girlfriend Beth to wring her hands while sleepwalking–instead, she gets angry at a dog and orders him to leave. “Out! Out! Damn Spot.” Hee.
What I enjoyed most about this book was that it was set during the Scottish Games, an event of which I am all too familiar. My father played the bagpipes when I was growing up, despite the fact that my mother’s the only one with Scotch blood (thank you, Grandma Adele Kendrick of the clan MacNaughton). Despite his lack of a geneological pedigree, my dad wailed out hits like “Annie with the Nut-Brown Hair” like he was piping for William Wallace himself, and our reward for enduring countless county fairs was the annual Highland Games in Fair Hill, Virginia. Scottie dogs, caber tosses, thistles and tartans–there’s really nothing like it. Gratz made me laugh every time he mentioned that the pipers were playing yet another round of “Amazing Grace” and made my bonny heart ache for a piping hot shepherd’s pie eaten on the peat in the fog twinkling with purple heather. Och!
The plotting in Something Wicked is quite energetic, though there’s not really much of a mystery. Horatio is an appealing protagonist whose wit and bravura are pretty sexy and fun. From the sounds of it, Horatio might be off to star in a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest next, and I’d definitely be keen to check that out, as well as his previous outing, Something Rotten, a retelling of Hamlet.