Friday, January 11, 2013

Sorceress by Celia Rees

TITLE: Sorceress
AUTHOR: Celia Rees
PUBLISHER/YEAR: Candlewick/2002
SERIES: Sequel to Witch Child
SOURCE: Purchased

Goodreads / Author's Website

You guys, I have so many feelings about this book I don't even know where to begin. I'm super conflicted. Sorceress is the sequel to Witch Child and it takes a totally different approach to continuing Mary Newbury's story. Be forewarned, there might be spoilers for the first book in this review. But seriously, the book's like a decade old. Okay, so I loved the story, but some of the characterizations fell flat for me and I just. I don't even know! 

So when we left Mary at the end of the first book she was alone, having been chased out of her puritan town because she was suspected of being a witch. Sorceress picks up at that moment, but while Witch Child was written as a diary, Sorceress uses a more traditional form of storytelling. Mary's story continues, but her spirit has inhabited Agnes Herne, an aboriginal, university student who first came across the story after reading "Mary's diary." Mary has left Beulah and chooses to live with the Penacook nation, living among them not as an outsider, but a powwaw and spiritual healer. 

This is the part of the book that makes me sit on the fence. At first I could not stand this novel. On the one hand I was so excited to see aboriginal characters play a prominent role, that's pretty rare in the books I've come across. On the other hand, all main aboriginal people were either super mystical orrrr running casinos. I get that it fit into the story that Rees was telling, a story that was in large part about magic and it all fit, but I still kind of got this icky feeling. As an aboriginal person I rarely see myself represented in novels and it just struck me as such a stereotype. The characters (especially the modern ones like Agnes) spoke according to expectations; they spoke in what amounted, in my mind, to stereotypical sound clips. I could be getting too worked up about a little thing though; this is a topic that's pretty close to my heart after all. 

Other than that, I really enjoyed this novel. I think I liked it better than Witch Child as far as storytelling goes. I could engage more with Mary and I loved how her personality developed as she stopped trying to hide who she was. I also loved the inner conflict she felt, love for her family, but knowing that at one time she lived with the English. 

I loved watching her grow, but I have to tell you this book absolutely broke my heart. I read a few reviews that said it was difficult to connect with Mary, but I completely disagree. She was caught up in King Phillip's war, her people were about to be wiped off the map; this was a horrible period in history and I assumed she would suffer. But my god. It's painful to read about when it hits. 

It may be because of personal bias but I really loved portions of this book and I would love to find more books with strong aboriginal characters. However, it did lose a little something in the beginning for me. I liked the continuation of Mary's story even though it was in a completely different style. I'm not sure if the modern world portions were totally necessary, but I suppose they provided some needed structure and closure. 

Sorceress is worth a look. It features some strong female characters in addition to minorities and most importantly it's a compelling story. It's majorly flawed and I'm not totally in love, but I think if you like Witch Child you have to read the follow up. 

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