Oof, this was good.
Have you ever wondered why, during the Salem witchcraft trials era, if the women accused of being witches really were witches, they didn’t perform some sort of magic to survive? I’m thinking author Brom may have wondered this.
Abigail is an innocent and energetic young English girl, sold by her father to a Puritan in the Colonies. She arrives, nervous, but staying positive and looks to make the best of the situation. Fortunately, her husband, Edward, is a good man who is willing to work hard to make a good life for he and his bride.
But Edward dies under suspicious circumstances, and his brother, Wallace, claims Edward’s property (including his wife, Abigail) which, due to Edward’s work, is in much better condition than his own. But Abigail knows enough about the local law to stake her claim on the land as long as she meets the agreed upon terms and can pay for the land when the payment (to Wallace) comes due.
Abigail has a deep connection with the land and continues to farm it well, which annoys Wallace no end, and he is determined to see Abigail fail – even if he has to help her out in that regard a little bit.
Enter the dark stranger who recognizes something special in Abigail and who helps her build on her connection to the natural world around which in turn keeps her farm healthy and prosperous. Which in turn, drives Wallace absolutely mad. The better Abigail does, the hard Wallace works to cut her down in order to get the land.
And the harder Wallace works to bring Abigail down, the more she must turn to her dark friend to get her out of trouble. But by doing so, Abigail is giving Wallace the best ammunition to use against her. He recognizes what she has become even before she does, and being accused of being a witch in Puritan New England is a death sentence even she can’t escape.
Or can she?
There is so much power in this revenge story, and make no mistake, this is a revenge story, for both Wallace and Abigail. But it’s also a tightly woven character study of Abigail, who never loses her faith even after she’s changed, but even she reaches a breaking point.
As readers, we watch her growth and her slow conversion to the bewitchery indicated in the title, and we’re absolutely held spellbound. We want her to maintain her sweetness and her kindness and her innocence, but Wallace and his cronies are set up so well, so evilly, that we also want Abigail to triumph over them. I mean, we REALLY want to see them suffer for what they do.
The first three quarters of the book is set-up. Setting up the characters, the relationships, the obstacles. There isn’t a lot of horror, darkness, or gore in this set-up, but once it starts, it’s full on graphic horror that might just turn your stomach. But what’s most fascinating, even here, is that this graphic horror starts with the human, Puritanical world. What Abigail and another suffer, as enticement to admit to their crimes of witchcraft and consorting with the devil, is every bit as gory and horrific as what will later befall them as part of the supernatural aspects of the book.
Yeah, this is smart, well built horror. And I love that author Brom isn’t just picking on the so-called religious Puritans. There is a reverend here who really is the ‘good’ in the book, holding true to his beliefs and representing what can be, or should be, about religion.
I’ve never read anything by Brom before, but now I want to read everything. This is so incredibly well structured, with fantastic characters, and I was pulled into the story and felt as though I was an active viewer, a member of the crowd so to speak, rather than just a guy holding a book.
Look at the glorious cover. Really look at it. If this makes you think. “Oh, wow” then read the book.
Looking for a good book? You found it. Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom is a fantastic tale of the descent, or ascent?, to darkness with a fetching young girl as our protagonist.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery
publisher: Tor Nightfire
hardcover, 307 pages