At the start of this novel, as worshippers of the Mother hide their magical skills from the Church, a reader might be reminded of America’s Salem and witch trials. But the countryside feels more like England at the time of the Reformation, religious allies across the water and shifting schemes of politics. While firmly grounded in fantasy, this story evokes a very real era and issues as relevant today as they were then. The blessings of gifts, supernatural or otherwise can be easily misused, and power has always corrupted those who seek it too earnestly.
Three siblings survive, unbeknownst to each other, after a dramatic fire, and take very different stands against the murderers of their family. One will seek peace, another revenge by violence, and a third the political downfall of the accusers. Wisdom is tested against knowledge, free-will against prescience, and the innocence of youth against the manipulation of the betrayed.
The writing’s evocative, the action fierce and graphic, the compromises painful and the plot beautifully told. Not for the youngest or most squeamish teens, this is one of those young adult/adult novels that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go. But behind all the plots, reader and character alike are led to believe there must be a guiding hand. Mother, Father or Teacher, fate is never quite as random as it seems, and integrity is surely worth the cost.
The author creates a reformation land of Albi where followers of Teacher and Mother mirror the Catholics and Protestants of history, where faith isn’t simple and might only pretends to be right, and where magic lies in the writing as well as the tale.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.