Thursday, August 18, 2011

Witch Child by Celia Rees

Witch Child
Where have all the witches gone?

   Witch Child tells the story of Mary Newbury, who emigrates to the American colonies in 1659.  Mary was orphaned in England when her grandmother was accused of witchcraft and then killed.  So she is sent to a small town near Salem in order to escape the witch hunt.  The problem is that Mary actually is a witch, and she soon finds that the American colonies are equally hostile when it comes to witchcraft.

   When this YA book was published in 2000, it received a lot of attention and was nominated for several awards, and I have no idea why.  Normally, I find stories (even fictionalized ones) about the 17th century witch trials extremely interesting, but this book struggled to hold my attention.  It begins with so much potential - there is chaos, murder, family secrets...but when Mary gets on the ship to come to America, most of the action is left behind.

   The book is written as Mary's diary entries, and she mostly writes about the scenery of her surroundings and the characters she encounters on her journey.  Surprisingly enough, for a book called Witch Child that is supposed to be about a witch, there is very little witch action.  And by that I mean, aside from a few visions, herbal healing, and a bit of finger-pointing, nothing really happens.  But maybe because this is the first in a series it is meant to serve as background information for the rest of the story.  The sequel is called Sorceress and is written from the perspective of one of Mary's descendants, Agnes.  So I guess Mary escapes her accusers.  Big surprise.

   I think this book had the potential to be amazing.  I mean, the witch hunts were such bizarre historical events and it seems impossible to portray them in a boring manner, but Witch Child somehow manages to do so.  I really wanted to like this book, but I just didn't.  Neither did my husband.  I read this book aloud to him and almost every night he would ask, "When is something going to actually happen?"  We were so bored by Mary's story that it took almost 3 months for us to finish, mostly because we started to get so sleepy after 5 or 10 pages.  I usually enjoy YA novels and children's fiction, but maybe this is one of those books that just doesn't translate the same for adults.