The Ragwitch, by Garth Nix

Julia turned around – and Paul skidded to a stop in shock. He felt like he’d been winded, struck so hard that he couldn’t breathe at all. For the person in front of him wasn’t Julia at all, but a hideous mixture of girl and doll: half flesh, half cloth, and the eyes and face had nothing of Julia left at all, only the evil features of the doll.

When Paul and Julia find a rag doll hidden in a nest at the beach, Paul wants nothing to do with it. Something about the doll frightens him. But Julia insists it is beautiful, and takes it home. Soon the doll has taken over Julia’s body and become the Ragwitch, an evil being from another world. With Julia’s body she can return to her own world and continue her evil campaign. Paul can only help Julia by following her.

Soon, Julia and Paul are each on their own chilling adventure – Paul, across the magical world, seeking a way to rescue his sister, and Julia inside the Ragwitch’s mind, where she has been trapped. Whilst Paul must overcome his fears and find the strength to battle the evil forces, Julia must block out the horror of living through the witch’s sinister campaign.

The Ragwitch is a powerful fantasy by one of Australia’s foremost masters of the genre. It was Nix’s fist novel-length work, first published in 1990, and fans will find it perhaps less polished and less original than his later works, but is still an excellent read. The focus on two individual fights between good and evil, and on family loyalty and wider responsibility for the common good driving that fight, are ones which fit well into fantasy for this age group.

Suitable for readers aged twelve and over.

The Ragwitch, by Garth Nix
First Published 1990, this edition Allen & Unwin, 2006