Review: Witch Child by Celia Rees

Title Witch Child
Author Celia Rees
Genre Fantasy, Historical Witches
Format Kindle Edition
Page Length 235
Publication Date 04 Jun 2000
Publisher Bloomsbury
Read Date Jul 2017
Rating 3.6279 stars – Recommended

When Mary sees her grandmother accused of witchcraft and hanged for the crime, she is silently hurried to safety by an unknown woman. The woman gives her tools to keep the record of her days – paper and ink. Mary is taken to a boat in Plymouth and from there sails to the New World where she hopes to make a new life among the pilgrims. But old superstitions die hard and soon Mary finds that she, like her grandmother, is the victim of ignorance and stupidity, and once more she faces important choices to ensure her survival. With a vividly evoked environment and characters skilfully and patiently drawn, this is a powerful literary achievement by Celia Rees that is utterly engrossing from start to finish.

They did not want her drowning, because that would deprive the people of a hanging.

Witch Child is presented as a collection of found journal entries written by Mary Newbury between March 1659 and October 1660. Mary comes from a family of witches and therefore defines herself as a witch (even though she doesn’t really practice much). After Mary’s grandmother is hanged she must flee to avoid the same fate. She boards a ship to the New World where she hopes to leave behind her witchy ways and live a life of freedom and free of persecution. Unfortunately, this is Puritan America… need I say more?!

We are truly in the wilderness. Screeching and howlings rend the night. The cries are of creatures unknown to us, not heard in England since ages past.

I love stories of historical witches, and I have an interest in 17C America, so I was like a pig in muck with this. Picture that. Picture me, dressed in a pig suit, rolling in mud. You’re welcome. I really enjoyed going on the journey with Mary. I also enjoyed the tough, no nonsense Martha. There are aspects of magical realism which ticks another huge yes please box for me. Give me more magical realism please! Om nom nom.

I have seen his past. I have seen his future. I know how death will come to him and I feel the knowledge like a burden. Grandmother said never to reveal the manner of someone’s dying. There is no help and no avoidance. What will be, will be, but to know too soon will colour someone’s life, darkening the hue for them, stealing the light.

There really isn’t too much that happens in this. It’s really a coming of age story. It’s a slow burner and if the setting doesn’t interest you, I think it would be easy to get bored with it. There also isn’t much mystery, action, or tension. Because we are all really smart, we all know when we read a story about historical witches what is going to happen and unfortunately, this doesn’t break the mould.

To be a midwife, to be a healer, brings danger. If everything goes well, then all are grateful, but when things go wrong, as they do often enough, well, that is a different matter. Those that heal can harm, that’s what they whisper, those that cure can kill.

There isn’t much more to say about this. It isn’t breaking any new ground and probably won’t leave a lasting impression on me. But, I enjoyed it nonetheless. I may read the sequel (Sorceress) as I am interested to know what happens next.

LINKSGoodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

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1 Comment

  1. Haha… that pig imagery was rather fun! I do like the saying though… ‘happy like a pig in shit’… ah.. glad you enjoyed the book somewhat, witches have never been something that intrigues me for some reason… well, now, sure, historically what they faced was, of course, an absolute horror, but in a fantasy setting there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot shocking they can add to the story… Hope the sequel is good for you, though!

    Liked by 1 person

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