Release Date: April 18, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Review Source: eARC from NetGalley for honest review
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
In seventeenth-century Scotland, saying the wrong thing can lead to banishment—or worse. Accused of being a witch, sixteen-year-old Maggie Blair is sentenced to be hanged. She escapes, but instead of finding shelter with her principled, patriotic uncle, she brings disaster to his door.
Betrayed by one of her own accusers, Maggie must try to save her uncle and his family from the king’s men, even if she has to risk her own life in the process.
Originally published in the UK, this book has a powerful blend of heart-stopping action and thought-provoking themes.
This was an interesting book, and I felt like it told two separate stories. The first of these stories is Maggie’s brush with death as she gets accused of being a witch, and the second is Maggie’s time with her family and journeying to save her uncle. I’d like to mention early on that this was a very different book from what I expected, and from reading other reviews, I see that many others have felt the same way. I went in expecting a borderline paranormal story about Maggie as a witch (or an accused witch, at least) fighting off persecution, and some magical happenings regarding this, but instead... I found myself reading a book that could definitely be labeled as Christian historical fiction, as the book becomes a story mostly about faith and politics, while also telling a very quiet survival story.
It was tough to read this book at times. It’s horrible to be reminded of what societies have done, and continue to do, to their outcasts: how they have been scapegoats throughout history. It was also terrible to read about the suffering of the Covenenters because of their religion. The novel poses many interesting questions about principle. Would you give up your life for your faith? Would you choose faith over family, even? There are a lot of tough decisions that get made in this book. The book also features a lot of description and narration of Maggie’s thoughts, which usually isn’t my thing, but I found her inner monologue quite easy to read and very interesting. Maggie is quite naive and inexperienced, but she knows it. She’s fearful, yet when it comes down to it she is brave, and does what has to be done.
The afterword of the book made the whole thing even more interesting, I thought. It was clear that the novel was based on Scottish religious history, but in the afterword we learn that it is also a fictionalized account of the author’s own ancestors. Like I’ve mentioned previously, real historical figures in a novel always make a book more intriguing to me.
Though this was a very different novel from what I expected, I definitely enjoyed reading it. I only wish that the ending was a bit more clear, and that we could know what Maggie decided to do. I wasn’t sure if it was very realistic that Maggie would be left to her own devices, making all of her own decisions back in 17th Century. Either way, I enjoyed this look at historical Scotland, and I found Maggie to be a strong, relateable main character who, like many other people, grapples with faith and questions of right and wrong.
Find The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.ca