Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. Each new settlement asks for a new journal, and so this Book of Shadows begins…
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate at the hands of the panicked mob: the Warlock Gideon Masters, and his Book of Shadows. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had and making her immortal. She couldn't have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself, tending her garden and selling herbs and oils at the local farmers' market. But her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl called Tegan starts hanging around. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth begins teaching Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories—and demons—long thought forgotten.
Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, The Witch’s Daughter is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of Witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality; to remain true to herself; and protect the protégé she comes to love.

If ever there was a time on this planet to be a witch, the seventeenth century wasn't it. The Salem Witch Trials went on in America in the latter half of that century as well. How awful it must have been for those people (and their loved ones) who were accused and executed for no other reasons than paranoia and mass hysteria. Everybody knows that there are no such things as witches, right?

In The Witch's Daughter, Bess learns the hard way that there are such things as witches. In the beginning, she lives in the village of Batchcombe, England with her two siblings and parents and fancies herself maybe being a lady someday. But all that changes after the plague rampages through and takes most of her family and many others, leaving distraught mothers wandering the town, mourning their children and hating Bess' mother for being left with a daughter. Soon after, Bess' mother is hanged for being a witch, leaving Bess to turn to a man who she is certain can't be trusted, Gideon Masters. With him, Bess learns that she is a real witch like her mother, and has plenty of power. Gideon wants that power for himself and wants Bess to be his mate/partner/so-called equal but after Bess catches him in the woods one night, doing all those naughty things with demons that evil warlocks like to do, she escapes and tries to put Batchcombe and Gideon behind her. Now immortal, Bess changes her identity and traveling around to Whitechapel, London during Jack the Ripper's terror and the frontlines of WWII, working to help others like a good witch should but knows that trouble is right behind her. Almost four hundred years after her family's tragedy, Bess is comfortable in a small town in England and against her nature, befriends a teenage girl who wants to learn about Bess' craft. Complacency makes Bess worry, however, and when Tegan meets a boy who monopolizes her time and attention and works to poison her relationship with Bess, Bess starts gathering her weapons for a final showdown with Gideon.

The Witch's Daughter seemed daunting to me at first; three hundred pages of (what appears to be) tightly-spaced ten point font is not something you can just rip through in one sitting but that's pretty much what I did: read it all in one evening, right after dinner. It started a bit slowly but once I got to the first flashback about Bess' village, I was hooked. Told mostly through flashbacks in between bits of the present, The Witch's Daughter is a compelling story about what inner strength really is.

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