I'm not sure what happened, but the review I had scheduled for yesterday never posted, and this one didn't post this morning either! I totally blame Blogger. I'll have the one from yesterday up on Thursday instead. Until then....
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Format: eGalley (courtesy of Netgalley)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Publication Date: 4.18.2011
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.
Before I gush about why I loved this book, I just need to say that I love the cover. From a photography standpoint, the photo is spectacular; the silhouette of the girl, against the expansive background and cloudy sky, with her reflection in the foreground...it's gorgeous! I also love the title, which fits the book perfectly.
Now, about the book: I think the strongest point of The Betrayal of Maggie Blair, is that it features a set of strong characters. Maggie is a great character, who doesn't always know what to do, or how to stand up for herself. She does know what is right and wrong, though, and this knowledge helps her to do what needs to be done in the story. She constantly pushes herself to do what she knows is right, even if doing so puts her in a bad position.
Maggie's grandmother is quite the character, at times giving meaning to the phrase "old hag." But even she has a depth to her that shows you why she seems a little rough. Other characters like Tam, Annie, and Hugh Blair, are all given extreme personalities, but are developed well enough that you believe them.
The Blair family was especially interesting to read about. They are what seemed like an accurate depiction of a presbyterian "rebel" family (also known as Covenanters) during the time period when King Charles II (and then King James the VII) began ruling the church, and hunting down those who refused to conform, or to recognize him as the head of the church. The Blair family has strong (if a bit extreme) morals, and refuses to conform, which brings some interesting and real conflicts into the book. In fact, everything in this book seemed horribly real. The witch trials were frightening, and the way the soldiers treated the Covenanters was utterly terrible. Laird really brought the time period alive, reminding the reader that not all of history is pretty.
Side note: I actually didn't know about "Covenanters," or the "Killing times" until I read this book, and was so intrigued, that I went and researched it after reading. It was a very interesting time in history.
Now, the book does have a bit of a slow pace to it. Things happen over the course of about a year (maybe even a little longer; I admit that I didn't pay that much attention to the timeline), so the action isn't immediate, and doesn't all happen at once with one huge climax. Instead, things happen over time, there are many obstacles to overcome (danger is always lurking), and the character growth is subtle. But it is exactly how I like my historicals: rich in detail, true to the time period, and not paced according to today's standards.
I highly recommend it!
...you love good historical fiction, you like strong (sometimes eccentric) characters, and you can stand to be betrayed over and over again.
Clean read, suitable for teenagers and older.