It starts with drama and heartache, in the form of 16-year-old Mary's grandmother. A kind healer-woman, she has been condemned as a witch. Her neighbors, who she's helped many times, now turn against her. After torture and starvation, she is hanged – and now that the "witch" is dead, attention may turn to her granddaughter.
A rich woman takes Mary away from the site of the murder and tells her she is going to America, acting as a young orphaned Protestant. In a small trunk of essentials, Mary finds a journal and a note – the woman is her mother.
The journey overseas is long and dangerous, though Mary meets and befriends Martha, Rachel and a ship's boy whose future she sees in the water. It seems that the peril of England is gone when the pilgrims reach the New World. But it is not so; an old woman warns her that superstitions are not banished, but multiplied by the dark forests, full of natives and unexplored dangers and wild animals.
And though Mary befriends a few of her neighbors, the rest are not so kind. So when the preacher's son takes an interest in Mary and Rachel falls in love, some are not satisfied. There are two that come to Mary for witching: Hannah and Sarah. But when Mary refuses their requests and denies her witchcraft, the girls take matters into their own hands.
An excellent read! Celia Rees is way up there on my favorite author list, up in the top ten. She weaves a tale of dark and light, full of hope and evil, good and loneliness. It ends in a huge cliff-hanger, but luckily there's a second one: Sorceress.
Eight out of ten waves!