Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











{April 18, 2011}   Releasing Today: The Betrayal of Maggie Blair, by Elizabeth Laird

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been so gracious as to allow me review an ARC of this novel, through Netgalley, prior to its release in the United States today.  So, without further ado, here’s the 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.

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This was a really interesting historical novel, and I’m glad that it’s making its debut in the United States this month.  As the synopsis states, it deals with Scotland in the seventeenth century, an aspect we don’t study very often in the States, yet the events in this novel mirror events in the U.S., specifically the Salem witch trials.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the novel as Maggie and her grandmother are accused of witchcraft.  I think what I enjoyed the most about this is that Laird never explicitly states whether the grandmother and Maggie are actually innocent.  Laird did a phenomenal job writing this portion of the novel, and I found myself pulled in different directions as the story unfolded.  At times I was convinced that Maggie and her grandmother were truly innocent, only to be confronted with information that made me later questions their innocence—and the answer is never blatantly stated.  I enjoyed being able to figure it out for myself, without Laird telling me what to think; this was refreshing as I was able to make my own decision based on the text.

However, what the synopsis doesn’t tell you, and what you need to know, is that this novel also has extreme religious undertones, and only half the novel deals with witchery.  Many of the characters are highly religious and they quote from the Bible often, which is fine, but not my forte.  I understand that religion is imperative for this historical novel as it deals not only with false accusations of witchery, but also with King Charles’ attempt to force protestants into submission.  However, I found myself skimming large passages where the characters rehash previous statements, or quote excessively from the Bible, and I just didn’t enjoy that portion of the novel.  This, of course, is a personal preference, and you may come to a different conclusion as you read; it just isn’t for me.  Three and a half stars.

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