Witchcraft and a little historical intrigue: a great combination for a YA audience.
Series: This is the first novel in the series
Genre: Historical paranormal (YA)
Published: 5 July 2012
Find it at Amazon UK or Goodreads
The blurb says...
When the power falls on me, it buzzes in the warm, dark spaces of my skull. It stings like nettles at the tips of my fingers.
Meg Lytton has always know of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a witch from early childhood, concocting spells from herbs and bones is as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practise the craft, for it is 1554, and the punishment for any woman branded a witch is death.
Sent to the isolated palace of Woodstock, Meg discovers her magic is of interest to the banished princess Elizabeth, who is desperate to claim the throne. But Meg's life is soon thrown into turmoil by the ruthless witchfinder, Marcus Dent - and the arrival of a smouldering young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo.
The first pulse-quickening book in a bewitching new series.
My verdict: A historical setting, the spice of witchcraft and a touch of romance make for a thrilling read for teens and above.
This novel uses some aspects of Tudor history and plays 'what if ' with others (as you might expect fiction to do*). Set in the period when Mary was on the throne and the future Elizabeth I imprisoned, the atmosphere of religious intolerance and the threat of treason is ripe for a paranormal adventure with plenty of danger provided by the witchfinders and their control through fear.
The first-person narration in Meg's voice gives us immediacy and clarity about the constant dangers around her, and her feelings about them. She lives in a world of secrets and uncertain loyalties, and this is the source of most immediate threats. She is largely a bright and sensible girl and understands the complex threats around her, even when she feels she must take risks to protect those she loves. I warmed to Meg quickly and enjoyed the time I spent in her world. I will definitely get the next in the series to see what happens to her next.
I feel also that this is a strong start to a series as the key players are well established, along with the broader setting and context. The immediate plot is resolved (I hate it when a series book feels like half a book), but there is clearly scope for more adventure ahead. I also appreciate that there was a strong storyline and plenty of action in the book (again, a series opener can be slow and stodgy in building up characters and a world, but not so here).
Overall, I found this to be a greatly enjoyable read that offers tension on several fronts and is likely to give lovers of YA romance, fantasy, paranormal and historical plenty to get their teeth into.
*There has been some criticism that kids reading this might think, for example, that Anne Boleyn really was a witch. I would hope that if they're interested, they might look up a bit about the period. You never know... But still, surely teen readers don't assume everything in novels is true? Victoria Lamb's post at the Overflowing Library about historical fiction and the YA market makes clear what the author feels about this.
Victoria Lamb is stopping by the Hearthfire tomorrow to answer a few questions about Witchstruck and her writing generally, so do come back!