Review first published on Goodreads April 28th 2017
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
At times this was a solid 2 star book. But there were a couple great scenes that redeemed “Witch Child” & made it more enjoyable.
Listen, I didn’t love this book. Author Celia Rees’s prose is often thick with descriptions YET utterly lacking in tension. For a book that takes place during the early years of witch hunt hysteria (hello, Salem) “Witch Child” is a mostly lifeless book. It’s really lacking in energy & at many times gets slow & dull. Think: long scenes wandering through the forest, just to marvel at nature. The plot progression here was shaky at best. Rees may have been trying to make this more character driven.
BUUUUUUT Mary– the 14-year-old implied witch and protagonist — isn’t a particularly interesting character. Because this takes a mostly “diary format” the point of view is sometimes very bland. Her dialog often sounds very scripted, I felt like I was reading a play, not a novel.
As for the rest of the characters: Rebeka, Martha, Sarah, Indian teen Jaybird & the antagonists are nothing special and very flat. I never got a sense of knowing who any of them were. Other than they had a strong bond amongst another– which is a positive part of Witch Child: it really promotes strong female friendships & the connection between women. So THAT I was happy to see!
Other than that the antagonists were VERY CLICHED. The puritanical ministers preaching about hellfire and damnation, we’ve seen a million times, as with the shallow mean girls: Deborah, Hannah, Judith & Elizabeth who use their resentment and jealousy to try to get Mary convicted as a witch. These girls are catty and cruel but seem cartoonish in their fury. I can’t take them seriously.
Soooo there’s a sequel to this called Sorceress. Will I be reading it? Nah! There’s just not enough incentive to pick up another volume about Mary, who’s already a half-realized character as it is, in a story that’s too wandering and slow and barely gets anywhere.
A shame, because I’m a HUGE fan of the witch genre.
It’s not a book but I highly highly highly recommend “The Witch” starring Anya Taylor Joy; it’s an historically accurate horror film that succeeds in everything Celia Rees tries to do here.