“It’s Salem’s vengeance, Mrs Kelly. Come for it’s due and proper!”
As soon as I opened this book, I was met with a brief piece of research by Dr Linnda R. Caporael, that looks into how the behaviours of the Salem accusers can be linked with the fungus Caliceps Purporea through Ergot poisoning.
I loved this little snippet. I’d actually never heard of this theory before until I read this book and ended up going ahead and looking into it further. As much as it pains me that real witches might not exist in this world, I do think this has some great reasoning behind it and wouldn’t be surprised if this was a contributing factor in combination with the religious hysteria present at the time. Every story has an explanation.
Salem’s vengeance tells the story of a group of young girls, bored with the tedious life that 17th century New England has to offer. They long to have fun dancing in the woods and be free of restriction. One night after sneaking out into the woods together, Sarah our main character and her two friends come across a group of people led by a woman who calls herself Hecate, the Devil’s Daughter. Hecate shows a particular interest in getting Sarah to join her and her group of ‘witches’ but only succeeds in getting one of the girls to partake in their ritual. After this Sarah and her one remaining friend become fearful of being both outed as witches and what has become of the friend who remained behind in the woods that night. During a brief dalliance with Hecate, Sarah is given a journal written during the Trials by her father. In denial about her father’s involvement with the trials but curiosity as to why he uprooted his life, changed his name and chose to settle elsewhere with a family gets the better of her. In her search for answers about her family and Hecate’s involvement, Sarah ultimately will feel the force of Salem’s vengeance.
This novel immediately grabbed my attention as a history lover with a Salem Witch Trials fascination. For centuries people have theorized and debated over what could have caused a group of people to behave so rashly and hysterically. In combination with it being a different time in which most people’s faith and reasoning lay in their religion and the way of the Puritans being a strict one, it seemed that Salem was just a boiling pot for disaster. Still three hundred years later, we find ourselves unable to let go of this dark period as the uncertainty continues to give us ways to bend and twist the story to our will whether it be for academic purposes or a stellar work of fiction for a novel or tv series.
Many try to take on a challenge with the Salem Witch Trials, but few really manage to make an impactful piece whilst still remaining as true to the era as possible in regards to detail. This novel does just that. From the language used throughout, to the descriptions of daily life and expectations set by the community leaders and parents, it does not disappoint. I was actually rather taken aback with the dialogue once I got into the story and worried it might make for a monotonous read but I was pleasantly and gladly proved wrong. The main characters were filled out enough early on that you understood their actions and why each behaved in the ways that they did. The children, fearful of disappointing strict parents, but restless and oppressed by Puritan life. The parents, fearful of God and their neighbours judgement for the slightest act out of line that could be mistaken for sin. Whilst Sarah’s parents portray the ridged and overly righteous parts of typical puritans of their time, Bishop and Priest provide some much welcome fight and wit to the storyline. They are the complete opposite of everything the Puritans stand for. Bishop is a rugged, hardened by life outlaw and Priest is a Native American who follows Bishop into war with the witches. Think of them as a 17th century Batman and Robin type due with a darker and much more mysterious backstory.
Without ruining too much for anyone who hasn’t yet read this novel, I will say it is a great take on history. I love that it is centered around the fallout of real events but had a complete new spin that hadn’t been explored much before. Authors more often than not set their story in the lead up to and during the Trials but not many ever set their story afterwards. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was pleased to realize that it is actually the first in a trilogy series. I would definitely recommend this to fans of historical fictions and anyone out there with an interest in the Salem Witch Trials.
Goodreads Rating: 4.02
Amazon Rating: 4.4 stars
My Rating: 4/5