It’s spring 1628 in Wessex, England, and the county Witchfinder has come to a small village that's reeling from the plague. Before long, Anne Hawksmith is swinging from the Hanging Tree as her teenage daughter Bess looks on. What Bess soon learns is that her mother wasn’t just an herbal healer, but a true magical practitioner, taught at the hands of a local warlock to save Bess from dying of the plague.
When the hanging posse comes for her--since the daughter of a witch must certainly be a witch herself--Bess flees to the warlock, Gideon, who sees in her a kindred spirit, teaching the young girl both the dark and light magical arts and imbuing her with immortality. But Gideon is no mild-mannered mage; he has embraced the dark arts and wants Bess as his mate.
Thus ensues a sweeping story that spans four centuries of British history as Bess, who wants to use her powerful magic for good, flees Gideon in what seems to be a timeless game of cat and mouse. Bess changes her name to Eliza and settles in 19th-century London, where she gets perilously close to Jack the Ripper…or is it Gideon in pursuit of her? She surfaces again as Elise in World War I-era England, where she falls in love with a young soldier, until Gideon shows up disguised as one of his troop mates. Finally, we catch up with her as Elizabeth in 2007, where she has settled into a quiet life selling herbal potions and remedies at the local market and training a lonely young neighborhood girl in the healing arts.
At least it's a quiet life until Gideon once again shows up, ready to claim her at last, and they finally must settle their centuries-old differences, no matter who dies in the process.
The Witch’s Daughter is an engrossing story, and Bess/Eliza/Elise/Elizabeth a feisty heroine with a good heart resistant to the dark magic she possesses. What will be incentive enough for her to explore the full depths of her power? Gideon is the villain’s villain--or is he Bess’s true perfect match, as he believes?
The book, written in the form of a journal that Bess keeps in her various incarnations, harkens back to the old epistolary novels. By its very nature, it removes the reader from the immediacy of the action--everything is “written down” after the fact. It gives the book a timeless, literary feel--but also keeps the reader from getting lost into an irresistible page-turner.
Still, that’s a quibble. The Witch’s Daughter is an unusual and fascinating look into how one misbegotten story of love, lust and magic plays out across the span of history, and Paula Brackston does an amazing job of conveying the grit and detail of life in different eras and switching between eras with ease and clarity.
Re-Issued Review. Originally reviewed: 1/15/2011
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 in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers and making her immortal. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he will be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life.
In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. Her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl named Tegan starts hanging around. Against her instincts, Elizabeth teaches Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories—and demons—long thought forgotten.
Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, The Witch’s Daughter is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak of immortality to stay true to herself, and protect the protégé she comes to love.