The Witch's Daughter
by Paula Brackston
Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach
The Witch's Daughter dips into three historical periods, with a frame story in the present day. Bess Hawksmith is a young woman in Wessex in 1627 when most of her family dies in a plague epidemic; she nearly dies herself, but her mother resorts to supernatural means to save her. Readers know from the present-day beginning that Bess is a witch, having lived almost four centuries into our own time. "I have more in common with the ancient oak on the village green, though I doubt it has seen as many summers as myself." She moves often and tries "to remain as invisible as my admittedly unusual appearance will allow." She is tall and striking, with "a snow-pure swathe, an icy sweep" of white in her coppery hair testifying to a fearful history.
Is witchcraft good or evil? Bess insists her mother was a good woman. She herself strives to do only good. But through most of the centuries of her life, she has avoided using the supernatural abilities taught her by the cruel, dominating and charismatic warlock who gave her mother the means to save her. "We are of a kind," this villain tells her. Even in the twentieth century, she still fears him and the haunting tune, "Greensleeves," which heralds his presence.
Bess's story takes readers through the witch persecutions of the seventeenth century, the nineteenth-century London of Jack the Ripper, and the trenches of World War I. Despite a strong historical atmosphere, the focus is less on history than on the struggle between Bess's benign practice, called Wicca in the present-day chapters, and the luridly evil force represented by the warlock who pursues her down the centuries. Naturally, the story builds to a final showdown. Readers who enjoy historical fantasy built around an epic struggle between good and evil should enjoy this original take on the theme. Don't expect a literary writing style or theological depth; The Witch's Daughter is strictly for fun. (2011; 305 pages)
More about The Witch's Daughter at Powell's Books or Amazon.com
Interview with author Paula Brackston
Other novels about witchcraft:
Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt (2010), a literary novel about a woman condemned for witchcraft in the early seventeenth century. See review or more info at Powell's Books
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (2009), a popular novel about a modern woman who discovers an ancestor was accused of witchcraft during the Salem persecutions. See review or
more info at Powell's Books
The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge (1958), about a wisewoman and herbalist whose family members fight on opposites sides during the English Civil War. More info
Nonfiction about Wicca:
The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente (1989), a memoir about the development of modern Wicca by one of its founders. More info
The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton (1999), a scholarly, respectful history of modern Wicca. More info
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham (1988), a how-to guide for practicing Wicca. More info
The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall
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