I remember reading a young adult fiction book some time between 2000 and 2010, where one of the characters was some kind of witch who was hiding out somewhere. She couldn't do very strong magic but would frequently use things like "look-away charms" that would cause whoever was near to look the other way without realizing, and she would use this to escape notice. I think this was referred to as "hedge magic" At some point a boy (or man?) comes looking for her, and she ends up imprisoning him in a shack, but they become friends somehow. I think she used copper or bronze to imprison him because she could not touch iron.

At some point, there is a sequence where she speaks with the boy from on top of a wall (a ruin?) and then causes him to look away, before hiding and escaping his notice. A plot dynamic seemed to be that the boy (and others) viewed the girl as a powerful and dangerous witch, but from the girl's perspective she was limited in her powers and more afraid of everyone else.

The world was a low-tech medieval setting, and magic seemed to be uncommon and frowned upon. If I remember correctly most of the plot happens in or around the witch's encampment, which was in the woods. There was some kind of kingdom referred to but I don't remember it being visited during the plot, although maybe I just forgot way more than I think I did.

I can't remember what the cover looked like but at the time I was reading a lot of young adult fantasy literature like Heir Apparent and I think it blended right in with that style.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! You might be able to improve your question by reviewing the suggestions for good story-id questions to see if they help you remember any more details you can edit into your question. For example, do you have any idea what the cover looked like?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 17:11
  • Thank you for the suggestion and for referring me to that post! I'll try to add a bit more detail if I can remember more.
    – jhartzler
    Commented Jun 19, 2020 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


This is The Goblin Wood, by Hilari Bell, first published in 2003.

Makenna is a hedgewitch, barely capable of setting small charms, who escapes when the villagers come to drown her and her mother.

She falls in with the goblins who are also now persecuted and together they create enough trouble that Tobin, "the knight", is sent after what he believes to be a sorceress.

This leads to the scene on the wall that you remember:

Irritation swept over his plain face. "Are you the sorceress? Speak up, girl."

Aye, this was a lordling, not used to having peasants ignore his questions. A slow smile crept over Makenna's face. She scraped the toe of her boot through the dust, completing the circle, and murmured the word. Look-away was her strongest spell--with the power in the wall assisting it, he swiveled clear around to stare over his shoulder.

She dropped quickly, rolled to the edge of the wall, and climed down. To him, it would seem that he glanced aside for a second and she vanished without a trace. She was grinning as she squirmed into the shallow cave she'd had dug beneath the wall for just this purpose--the entrance was spell hidden. She'd made these caves in many places where goblins could pass the wall, for emergencies. It could hold several goblins, but it was cramped for her, especially when Miggy pressed in to join her.

He isn't necessarily one of the most experienced knights, and she escapes and captures him instead:

There were several windows, but the little sod room, its ceiling barely high enough for her to stand upright, felt cramped and gloomy. He was sleeping on a pallet by the far wall, free except for the copper chain that dangled from the roof beam to his ankle. Made by goblin smiths, it wasn't as strong as iron, but plenty strong enough to hold a man who had no iron or steel tools. It wasn't a trap, she told herself fiercely. And even if he was trapped, her strange compulsion to set things free didn't extend to humans.

Would definitely recommend it if you feel like rereading--is a fun book! (and has sequels now, although I have not read them)

  • Thank you so much! This looks like the exact book and scene I was remembering.
    – jhartzler
    Commented Jun 21, 2020 at 16:34

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