April 5, 2012

Book review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

It isn’t easy being a woman in Born Wicked’s oppressive alternate version of 1890’s New England. The religious Brotherhood rules society with an iron fist. Women are expected to dress a certain way, behave according to a strict code, read only certain books. Even their futures are limited: marriage or the Sisterhood are essentially the only two options. Being a woman is a definite hardship. But it’s even worse if you’re a witch. The Cahill sisters have much to fear because this is exactly what they are.

Cate Cahill, the eldest of three sisters and still grieving over the death of her mother, struggles desperately to hide her and her sisters’ secret from those who would destroy what’s left of her family. Tess and Maura embrace the magic they possess and wish to hone their power, but Cate considers it a burden she would rather be rid of. There’s also the matter of her romantic future. A childhood friend has offered a proposal of marriage, which would shelter her from the disapproving eyes of the Brotherhood but also take her to New London and away from making sure her sisters stay out of danger. And what of her growing attraction to Finn, the scholarly gardener whose family owns a bookstore that dances on the edge of forbidden? A relationship with him would be completely inappropriate, but she finds him harder and harder to resist.

Jessica Spotswood’s debut novel, the first in the Cahill Witch Chronicles series, is a fine addition to the teen historical fantasy shelves. The female characters are well-drawn and alive on the page. The constant threat of the Brotherhood discovering the family secret maintains a tension-filled feeling of dread throughout the book. The mysterious prophecy that presages a trio of sisters (maybe the Cahills!) affecting the future of this world is tantalizingly introduced and sure to be developed in future volumes of the series. Cate’s romantic future is also uncertain with some unexpected twists at the cliffhanger ending. It’s an enjoyable debut, and teen fans will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Check out the book trailer!

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