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Posted June 29, 2011
Fantastic historical fiction
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.
Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Posted May 8, 2011
A Surprising Historical Gem
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair is nothing like what I would have expected it to be. It sounds like it's a paranormal book with witches and the like, but it's much more a historical take on a girl accused of being a witch and the lengths she goes to to save her own life, and later discover who she is.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Maggie Blair starts off as being a shy, meager girl, but her growth is astounding. By the end of the book, she is far stronger and more independent than I ever would have imagined. Her journey to get there is full of ups and downs (mostly downs), yet she somehow perseveres through everything. Throughout the entire book, the religiosity of the times is ever-present. Maggie isn't a very religious person, in a very religious time. She's not sure if she even believes that God has any hand in what goes on in her life. Her beliefs are much baser, going off of her emotions and what she knows to be true.
It's hard not to feel for Maggie, with all of her losses. Her worst times are backed by some stellar secondary characters though. Tam, a piper and an old friend of Maggie's family, turned out to be so much more than I thought he'd be. Maggie's Uncle Blair is also quite the striking man, as well. Then there's Annie, who made me want to reach back and give her a good, solid punch in the nose. If a character can incite that much feeling from me, then it's always a good thing.
All that being sad, The Betrayal of Maggie Blair does start off very slow. The elegant language held me long enough though, and once things started happening with Maggie and her Granny, I couldn't turn away. The story lulls quite a bit in the middle as well, but Maggie's story is one to stick with.
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair is based in part on the author's own seventeenth century Scottish family. Elizabeth Laird has been able to create the character of Maggie and give her this vivacious family that jumps off the pages. While I expected more paranormal, this almost fact-based tale of a girl making her way in a world that doesn't exactly accept her, surprised me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Posted May 7, 2011
review taken from One Book At A Time
I was hoping the mix of historical fiction, the idea of witches, and the young adult genre would make a good combination. In the end, the story was ok but was very heavy in the biblical references and a slow read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Maggie Blair has had a hard life. Her mother died during childbirth and her father died during when of the cattle drive river crossings. She's been living with her grandmother who seems cold and is not very well liked by the community. Maggie longs to be normal and I think to feel loved. The local rich farmer has coveted her grandmother's cottage/land for years. When her grandmother delivers the farmers baby, she predicts it will die soon. When he dies, an opportunity presents itself and grandma is accused of being a witch. The finger soon points to Maggie as well. Maggie escapes after being sentenced to hang, but grandma doesn't.
Maggie crosses a great distance dressed as a boy and lands at the doorstep of her uncle, who has thought all along that his brother died without children. But, she's basically traded one form of persecution for another. Her uncle's family is deeply religious, but do not practice according to the laws. One day he is captured by the king's soldier's and imprisoned. Maggie feels guilty because all this might not have happened if she hasn't been followed by one of her false accusers, a maid in the rich farmer's house. She's trying to escape her own persecution and she doesn't care who she steps on to get what she wants.
A good portion of the book deals with Maggie traveling far and wide to locate her uncle and save him. I was amazed at all the the things she goes through for someone she still doesn't know that well. She grows in her own convictions and becomes an amazingly strong young women. In a time that most people don't see much outside of were they were born, Maggie manages to see much of Scotland. Her courage and determination were amazing. The whole situation caused her to look at the world in a completely different way.
I would have really enjoyed this story more without all the biblical references. I understood the religious persecutions and didn't feel like the characters needed to be quoting the bible all the time. I also found the story really slow at times (maybe that was due to the biblical references). I did enjoy the story for the most part.
Posted April 18, 2011
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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 text 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.
Posted April 5, 2011
One thing I dislike, is the ignorance people have when it comes to the bible. People think that just because they think they know it, they know whats best for everyone. The Betrayal of Maggie Blair is just that. Religious people ignorant in what they read that they killed, hurt, accused innocent people, women mostly of being witches. And whats worse is those church going people who put everyone down using the bible are worse then everyone else.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
This story is very touching but also hurtful to read. As the reader follows Maggie, we see and feel every emotion that she goes through. Hurt, rage, sadness, fear. I wanted so badly to slap all those stupid people for being dumb. And whats ironic is that those people who accused Maggie weren't perfect either. They were hiding their sins thinking that they can hide from God using his words against him. And boy did the truth ever did come out.
The plot is breath-taking. Every turn of the page lead me to more and more anger as I see the betrayal of Maggie grow and grow. Ms Laird wrote a fantastic book that showcased every little detail in the witch trials. I was literally holding my every waking breathe hoping for the best for Maggie. It just seems that nothing let up for her.
Now, while most witches trials all lead to a guilty verdict, I was glad that there is that one and rare good ending for some girls who were accused. It wasn't the best ending. Maggie went through so much that nothing that those people say or do now could ever take back what they did to her. I am glad that Maggie had some kind of good outcome for her. Her strength amazed me. AMAZED ME! She held her head up high and did not stand for what those people did.
Posted March 20, 2011
Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer!
What a remarkable historical piece! The Betrayal Of Maggie Blair weaves an incredible story, rich in history and characters, sure to enchant you to turn the pages faster to find the hard truths of witchcraft and heresy. At first, I could not make head or tails of Maggie Blair. Did I like her? Did I find her too naive and easily swayed by charismatic preachers? Will she be hanged or burnt on the false accusations of witchcraft? As these questions churned in my head, I followed Maggie's plight and found myself slowly falling in love with this book! Elizabeth Laird really throws everything plus the kitchen sink into Maggie's story and gives us insights into what it might have been liked back then when religion played a big part in people's lives - and witchcraft and heresy were starting to cause panic. All the characters in The Betrayal Of Maggie Blair gave the story much flavor. The villains, the heroes, the romantics, the devout, the liars, the betrayed, the power-hungry - it was hard to let everyone go at the end. Each had a role to play in this drama, and they played it extremely well. No one was a cookie-cutter character, having both qualities to redeem and damn them. Even the villains tugged at my sympathies, although they certainly deserved their unfortunate end as time went on. If you enjoyed The Witch Of Blackbird Pond, The Crucible, or falling into the time period where they chased after witches, I trust you will find The Betrayal Of Maggie Blair just as magical!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2011
Must Read Christian Historical Fiction
To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement. Elizabeth Laird has created a setting so detailed you are mentally transported back into 17th century Scotland. This is the story of 16 year old Maggie who lives with her grandmother after her father's death. Her grandmother is not liked by most of the people around her. As a bitter and hateful old woman she spits her venom on everyone around her. When a newborn dies the neighbors have a way to get rid of her. They accuse her of being a witch and burn her. This was often the case during this time period. It didn't take much to be accused of witchcraft. Maggie escapes her grandmother's fate through the help of a family friend. She makes her way to her uncle's house where she is welcomed. She soon learns things are not going well for her uncle. The king wants to remove God from the church and set himself up as supreme being. It is kind of like the story of Daniel in the Bible where those who did not bow to the king and worship him were thrown in the lions den. In this story the king has men watching the people. They have secret meetings to try to figure out what to do about the king. When many of them are arrested Maggie finds herself doing whatever she has to do just to save her family.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Problems with religious differences is not new. It can be traced back to Bible times. Elizabeth Laird has used her ancestors to help bring this plight to light. There was a lot of Scottish history that I probably would not have learned if it had not been for this book. I really enjoyed it and can't wait to recommend it to my friends. Unfortunately they will have to wait until April to read it. But it is worth the wait.
Posted January 5, 2011
In this book, we're introduced to Maggie Blair who is orphaned and lives with her Grandmother in 17th Century rural Scotland. The book is peppered with references to Laird's own ancestry and landmarks, and has some pretty solid writing. A shame to say what a disappointment the book was. I was completely bombarded with scripture and bible verses and it seemed that the main focus of the story was God and Religion which makes sense, as Maggie is wrongfully accused of being a witch. I think that Laird just took the concept and ran with it. Overall, I found the historical setting fairly authentic, with allowances given to help make it accessible. I felt empathy for Maggie, yet there was a distance throughout my reading, I never felt totally immersed and didn't really feel that connection with the main character as I normally do when I read a book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The main problem that I had with Maggie was that she was so superstitious and ignorant, so she fell short.
I give this book a 3/5 because the writing, and character development was done really well.