Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review: The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston is a magical and mysterious piece of historical fiction.
The book takes the reader through a lifetime of events not often experienced by one person. In my Saturday Morning Summary I indicated the book was moving a little slow for me, and it was. However, like most great books, a turning point emerges and it becomes impossible to put the book down. I found myself digesting a large cup of coffee last night to be absolutely sure I could stay awake to finish the book, I needed to know what was going happen; if my predictions were right. (And, yes, they were but that made the ending no less dramatic and satisfying).

Isn't this a fantastic book jacket!!
Elizabeth Hawksmith is a witch. She finds herself in this predicament at the dying request of her mother, Anne Hawksmith. Anne was a mid-wife and healer during the Salem Witch Trials in the 1600's. Being a woman that used natural remedies to ease the ailments of her patients, she was a natural fit for the charge of witchery. During her time on this earth, her family suffered at the hands of a deadly plague and Anne, down to her last living child, made the ultimate sacrifice to save her - she made a deal with the "proverbial" devil, Gideon. The name Gideon in terms of the Bible and history means "destroyer." In the Bible, Gideon is not an evil man per-say, but he is a mighty warrior and I believe our author here uses his name to help the reader understand the concept of ultimate destruction.  Enter Elizabeth Hawksmith's bond to life of a wiccan way upon the charge and death of her mother by a witch hunter. With no one else left, Elizabeth must lean on Gideon to learn the craft for which her mother sacrificed and perish. The desire to survive is strong and she gives herself over to the craft.

(Pause for thoughts: At this point in the novel I thought Okay - it's The Crucible retold with a twist. Oh, but how wrong I was.)

Elizabeth Hawksmith goes on in her life weaving a compelling tell back and forth between present time and events past. She allows herself moments of weakness and of strength in an ever frantic struggle to outrun Gideon in his quest to find her and take her as his wife. You see, when Elizabeth accepted the craft, Gideon marked her as his bride, but she could not be swayed by the evil side of witchery; she possessed too much light. In the strength of being The Witch's Daughter, Elizabeth Hawksmith seeks to find a way to overcome.

Brackston does an excellent job knitting together the history of each time period Elizabeth Hawksmith inhabits. We see the cruelty of the Salem Witch Trails, the terror of Jack the Ripper, and the gore of a violent and bloody war. Each transition is skillfully marked through the concept of story telling to a young girl named Tegan of which Elizabeth has found herself fond. The love story presented her begins with a mother who would do anything to save the life of her child, and ends with much of the same idea. I appreciate this type of love being highlighted in literature, the love of a parent and child, the love of an adult willing to risk themselves to save the next generation. 

The witchcraft presented within is believable and sound. There is nothing that tugs at the notion  of "too much" and when I read books written with such detail and research in a questionable craft, I find myself wanting it to be true. I'm a robe and a wand (and kicky witch's shoes) away from seeking out my inner ability to perform magic.

I bestow upon this book with my magic wand 4 out 5 stars. The four is not a reflection of plot or character, but of some details I found to be tedious to read. While I appreciate understanding all the setting elements, I thought sometimes the color of the wall-paper irrelevant to share, but who am I to judge? :-)


From her website:  Paula Brackston lives in a wild, mountainous part of Wales. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and is a Visiting Lecturer for the University of Wales, Newport. Before becoming a writer, Paula tried her hand at various career paths, with mixed success. These included working as a groom on a racing yard, as a travel agent, a secretary, an English teacher, and a goat herder. Everyone involved (particularly the goats) is very relieved that she has now found a job she is actually able to do properly.

When not hunched over her keyboard in her tiny office under the stairs, Paula is dragged outside by her children to play Swedish tennis on the vertiginous slopes which surround them. She also enjoys being walked by the dog, hacking through weeds in the vegetable patch, or sitting by the pond with a glass of wine. Most of the inspiration for her writing comes from stomping about on the mountains being serenaded by skylarks and buzzards.

In 2007 Paula was short listed in the Creme de la Crime search for new writers. In 2010 her book 'Nutters' (writing as PJ Davy) was short listed for the Mind Book Award, and she was selected by the BBC under their New Welsh Writers scheme.

 Ms. Brackston has several other books, including a new book entitled The Winter Witch. I've already put this book on my wish list for a future read.

If you'd like to learn more about Paula Brackston and her writing, visit her website at www.paulabrackston.com

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