“…My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith, and my age is three hundred and eighty-four years. Each new settlement asks for a new journal, and so this Book of Shadows begins…”
In Wessex, England, in 1628, plagued has come to the small town. Though her young sister, her brother and her father die from the disease, Bess Hawksmith miraculously recovers. Soon the town and the Witchfinder accuse Bess’ mother of witchcraft. Bess can only watch as the mockery of a trial finds her mother guilty and then hung. Now she knows they will come for her. So she goes to the only one that can protect her from the maddening mob. Gideon Masters.
What young Bess comes to learn is that her mother was indeed a witch and given the power to save her child from the death that had taken the rest of her family. She learns this because Gideon Masters told her. Gideon who is a Warlock and has the power to awaken the black arts in dormant witches like Bess’ mother. Like the same power that resides in Bess herself. With Gideon, Bess learns how to use her great powers in the Craft and with her her own immortality. But Bess also sees the true evil that is Gideon Masters and what she will become if she follows him.
Bess Hawksmith flees the Warlock Gideon Masters and through time she changes her name and hides herself away because she knows; Gideon Masters will not give up on anything he believes is his. Centuries pass and from time to time, Gideon finds her but she escapes again. But not without price as the Warlock takes pleasure in taking from Bess what she loves.
In present day, Elizabeth has sought out a quiet life, selling oils and herbs at the local farmers’ market and hiding her magic. Until one day a young girl called Tegan begins to show interest and Bess decides to teach her slowly the Craft. But Bess knows, somewhere, Gideon waits.
This is a very well written book that will occasionally lose its way. There are several stories here, as in scope in spans several centuries. There is the time of the Witchfinder and the time of Jack the Ripper and then the Great War and then to modern day and the solace of the small markets. Brackston weaves her story of Bess Hawksmith as the witch attempts to find a way to assimilate to the changing world. Only occasionally does it lose its way and that may be due to the single narrative voice that is used. We see and hear what is happening only through the eyes and emotions of Bess. This narrative can become very self involved and repetitious in its telling.
Yet that is forgivable because the tale itself is so well constructed and ambitious. This is a grown up tale of witches and black magic and healing herbs and the dark arts that envelop the Craft. There is romance and some may consider this a historical novel but at its core it is a thriller. A chase through time. The love and hate relationship that is Bess and Gideon is central to this story. Gideon has a hold on Bess and she knows it and she also knows that she will never be allowed to love another while he hunts her.
In recent years, the tales of the supernatural have been turned into either romantic porn or high school love stories that are as trite as they are poorly written. The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston takes a huge leap in the genre taking it in a much better direction.
A really good read.