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Witch Child

Written by Celia Rees

Key Stage 3 Fantasy / Magical Horror & Ghost Stories Historical Fiction

LoveReading View on Witch Child

Superstition and suspicion abound in this enthralling, elegant modern classic set in the 17th-century

This emotive, richly-detailed novel illuminates a dark period of history with grace and lyricism through a perfectly-paced plot.

England, 1659 – an era of terror and persecution for women who might be accused of witchcraft. One such woman is Mary’s grandmother, the wise woman who raised her, someone the community once turned to in times of birth, sickness and death. But those times have passed. When her grandmother is hanged for witchcraft after a ludicrous trial, Mary fears for her own life, but she’s swiftly and quietly brought to safety by a woman she doesn’t know, with a passage to America arranged for her. In the New World Mary will adopt a new identity and make a new life among Puritans. 

Mary’s life in Salem is described in evocative detail - the heat that “does not fade with the setting sun”, the fireflies, the “dour” people whose “faces show a history of work and hardship.” But the Puritans find Salem too soft for them, and so they press further into the wilderness, to the Beulah (‘Bride of God’) settlement. Life is strict, and worsens for Mary when old superstitions re-emerge after she uses her healing wisdom. It’s while searching for herbs in the woods that she befriends Jaybird, a Native American boy, and meets his shaman grandfather. The novel tells of their history and spiritual beliefs with an engaging deftness of touch, but since the Puritans regard Native Americans as “the Devil’s instruments”, as people who live “in sin, and in degradation”, Mary’s association with Jaybird adds to their suspicion of her.

Presented as pages from Mary’s journal found centuries later, this is an engaging joy from start to cliff-hanger finish.

As Witch Child ends, so Sorceress begins...

Joanne Owen

Witch Child Synopsis

An updated edition of this outstanding historical novel, in a stunning new package to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication.

When Mary sees her grandmother accused of witchcraft and hanged for the crime, she is silently hurried to safety by an unknown woman. The woman gives her tools to keep the record of her days - paper and ink. Mary is taken to a boat in Plymouth and from there sails to the New World where she hopes to make a new life among the pilgrims. But old superstitions die hard and soon Mary finds that she, like her grandmother, is the victim of ignorance and stupidity, and once more she faces important choices to ensure her survival.

With a vividly evoked environment and characters skilfully and patiently drawn, this is a powerful literary achievement by Celia Rees that is utterly engrossing from start to finish.

Witch Child Press Reviews

I've saved the best for last. The prolific, erudite and consistently brilliant Celia Rees is justly renowned for her dizzyingly inventive plots, redolent of everyone from Angela Carter to Shakespeare. Sovay and Witch Child are two of her best-known books in the younger market, but she has written countless more, all equally breathtaking - Guardian

This is a powerful, absorbing and unusual novel - The Bookseller

The sort of historial novel eleven and twelve year olds will gobble up at a sitting - Nina Bawden

A gripping, thrilling novel that transports you to a time of paranoia and witch hunts. Witch Child and the sequel Sorceress are historical fiction at its very best - Waterstones' Guide to Kids' Books

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526618481
Publication date: 3rd September 2020
Author: Celia Rees
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 304 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 3
Topics: Fantasy / Magical, Horror & Ghost Stories, Historical Fiction

About Celia Rees

Celia Rees has written over twenty books for Young Adults and is best known for her historical fiction. Her first historical novel, Witch Child, was translated into 28 languages. Witch Child and subsequent titles, Sorceress and Pirates!, were shortlisted for the Guardian, Whitbread (Costa) and W.H. Smith Awards in the UK and won awards in the UK, USA, France and Italy. She lives in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK and divides her time between writing, talking to readers in schools and libraries, reviewing and teaching creative writing.   Photo credit: Sue Foll

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