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Publishers Weekly -In this slow-burning tale, author Sharratt (The Vanishing Point) gives voice to two prominent victims of the Pendle, England witch hunt of 1612, Bess "Demdike" Southerns and her 15-year-old granddaughter, Alizon. Living in poverty and illegitimacy, without the protection of men, the Southerns and their community gain some relief from powerlessness by harnessing a combination of Catholic and pagan magic: Demdike is a renowned "blesser," and Alizon may be even more adept than she. While Sharratt shows understanding for these women, her intent to present them sympathetically is undermined by her decision to portray their powers as real; healings, fortune-telling, and curses are recounted through a subjective, first-person account, but seem unambiguously actual. The waters are further muddied by awkward narration, which too often reads like bad Renaissance Faire dialogue. Though Sharratt successfully evokes the economic and social factors that marginalized these women and their fellows, as well as the paradoxical power they held over the community that feared them, one longs for Sharratt to commit either to a supernatural explanation of events, or a thoroughly realistic approach.
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