The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Blurb: An enthralling tale of modern witch Bess Hawksmith, a fiercely independent woman desperate to escape her cursed history who must confront the evil which has haunted her for centuries
My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. If you will listen, I will tell you a tale of witches. A tale of magic and love and loss. A story of how simple ignorance breeds fear, and how deadly that fear can be. Let me tell you what it means to be a witch.
In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage, Gideon instructs Bess, awakening formidable powers she didn’t know she had. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he would be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars, and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch. But will she be able to stand against Gideon—who will stop at nothing to reclaim her soul—in order to protect the girl who has become the daughter she never had?
Review:Oh… this book. Let’s start with the positive. First off, it was 99 cents on Barnes & Noble when I bought it. I liked the cover and the review, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The narrator and main character, Bess, recounts her history and life in her Book of Shadows. The story starts in modern times, with Bess settling into a new town. When Tegan shows an interest in Bess’s work and an inclination towards magic, Bess takes the young woman under her wing and, for the first time in years, tells the tale of her tragic past. While I didn’t care for the present version of Bess, I found the flashbacks to different periods in her life somewhat interesting (though this dwindled over the course of the book), particularly Bess as a teenager. This section is the real backbone of the story as it establishes Gideon as the nemesis and sets the framework for Bess’s plight over the next several hundred years. Unfortunately, this section doesn’t get nearly enough attention from the author, and winds up feeling stilted.
Fast forward to present time. Tegan leaps at the opportunity to study witchcraft under Bess’s tutelage, but also finds a beau. Predictably, Tegan’s studies suffer and Bess wonders at her wisdom in taking on this apprentice (really?). Bess retells more of her past lives, including her time as a doctor serving prostitutes while Jack the Ripper is on a rampage and her time as a nurse during World War I (WWII? I honestly can’t remember). Gideon has pursued Bess through each of these lifetimes, with the sole intent on making her his immortal companion.
While I like the idea of this story, the presentation is poor. Present-day Bess does a lot of explaining her feelings, and the end result felt a lot like reading a teenager’s depressing LiveJournal. I did a lot of skimming with this book, and finding myself getting annoyed by even the mention of “Greensleeves”. I would have preferred if the book focused more on Bess’s teenage years; there was a lot of potential in that flashback that fell short.
Another issue I had with the book was the description of the main character as “a fiercely independent woman”. Now, I understand that there are different definitions of that term. But when I think of “fiercely independent”, I think of Katniss–someone who, even when forced into terrible situations, will take the matter into their own hands and own it. Bess does a lot of reacting and is particularly impressionable to men-folk. Escaping Gideon is her primary concern, and his diatribes typically had the same theme: I am obsessed with you because you reject me, join the dark side, etc.
While Gideon is one-dimensional and annoying at best, her interaction with a romantic interest during WWI was the most disturbing to me. Without giving too much away, this particular beau recognizes what Bess is and embraces her for it, yet goes into hyper-patronizing mode on page 235.
So in summary: decent material to waste a few hours, but there are other more entertaining books out there. Also, the final scene has a bit of a “This is it?” feel to it. On to other stories!
View all my reviews