The Barnes & Noble Review
In a continuation of her popular novel Witch Child, author Celia Rees fuses Native American magic with colonial history in an engrossing book that links Mary Newbury, the self-proclaimed witch, with a present-day American Indian girl.
When Alison Ellman -- a Boston researcher who's fascinated with Mary Newbury's diary entries -- sends out a request for more information about the girl, she's stumped for a decent lead. That is, until Agnes, a Mohawk, responds with a message that stories in her culture have mentioned "a white woman who joined the people," and that her aunt might have some of Mary's belongings. After Alison drives the girl to the reservation to speak with Aunt M, Agnes soon learns that she's to go on a vision quest, a spiritual journey to connect with the universe and the soul. It is on Agnes's journey that Mary's history is revealed: her rescue from exile and acceptance into an Indian tribe, her new family and development as a sorceress, the destruction of her people by colonial settlers, and the life she discovers as a powerful healer. Along with the rest of Mary's story, background journal notes about Elias Cornwell are provided, as well as information about Beulah's fate, the Morse Quilt, Jack Gill, and more.
A mystical and powerful book, Sorceress brings the supernatural out of the clouds and mixes it with historical fiction, creating a memorable novel that doesn't let you go. The rest of Mary's epic story will quench readers' hunger left over from Witch Child, while the remarkable insight that Rees provides into Native American culture and spirituality will inspire people to learn more. An impressive follow-up created after Rees decided to split Witch Child into two separate books, this generation-spanning tale will transfix and satisfy.
A Native American teen experiences a life-altering encounter after reading about Mary Newbury, the 17th-century protagonist of Rees's Witch Child, who may be connected with one of her own relatives. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Agnes Hearne, a Mohawk and college freshman in Boston, has just finished the novel Witch Child (Candlewick, 2001, (c)2000/VOYA October 2001), and it is about to change her life. Descended from a strong line of medicine women, Agnes suspects that the central character, Mary Newbury, might be her legendary ancestor. At the urging of Alison Ellman, the researcher piecing together Mary's life, Agnes returns to the reservation and the ministrations of Aunt M, the tribal shaman. Mary's story must be told, and Agnes becomes the voice. In a trance state, Agnes becomes Mary, as subsequent chapters move flawlessly from the past to the present. Mary, having fled the Puritan village of Beulah, is rescued from freezing by Jaybird. They wed, settling into the gentle rhythm of tribal life. When King Philip's war erupts, Mary is forced to flee to Canada. Her personal attributes, including her skill as a medicine woman, assist her survival, and lead to her fame as a healer. Rees's technique of telling Mary's story through Agnes works well. The first-person voice is strong and offers compelling insight into the People's view of early American history. This sequel to Witch Child can stand alone, but the fullest reading experience would include both titles. Keeping with the historical research tone ending the first book, Sorceress ends with twenty-nine pages of "Background Notes" from Alison Ellman. Rees did her homework-the notes read as if they really were primary source materials. Pick up this fast-paced novel that effortlessly offers a good dose of history. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; JuniorHigh, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Candlewick, 344p,
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 2002: Witch Child is set in Colonial New England, and is about intolerance among the Puritans who were quick to call any woman who was at all insubordinate a witch. The book was selected as an ALA Best Book for YAs. Sorceress captures every eye with the cover photograph of a proud young woman, a Native American. This photo introduces the novel about how a modern Mohawk woman, Agnes, is able to connect with Mary, from Witch Child, and tell the story of what happened to Mary after she escaped from the New England village many generations ago. This is possible because in Agnes's tribe the history of her people is preserved through stories told from one generation to another. Also, the legacy of Mary, as a healer and a spiritual leader, is preserved in the women who have come after her, down through the centuries even to Agnes's immediate family. We learn through Agnes's visions that Mary is rescued by the Native Americans she had befriended in the forest, the old man and his grandson who taught Mary about the healing properties of the plants all around her. Mary and Jaybird are married and have two children. But their happiness is disrupted by the wars between the Indians and the white settlers, beginning with King Philip's War and continuing into the French and Indian War. They are frequently escaping from terrible danger, facing hardships, and making difficult decisions. Throughout is the excitement of discovering Mary's story. Agnes works with a college professor in modern times who is trying to verify the information found in Mary's diary, discovered hidden in an antique quilt. Using the Internet as well as artifacts in museumcollections and in the treasured historical collections of the Mohawk tribe, they pursue a research trail and find more and more information about Mary and her life and legacy. This book would not stand alone, but is meant as a companion work to Witch Child. (Sequel to Witch Child). KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Candlewick Press, 342p.,
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-This sequel to Rees's Witch Child (Candlewick, 2001) is a much more complex story, taking readers into a mystical plot that crosses time and place. Agnes, a Native American, is starting college in Boston. She reads part of a diary about 17th-century Mary Newbury and realizes that she has a connection with her from a story passed down in her family about a white woman who had settled with the Mohawks. Contacting the researcher who found Mary's diary leads to experiences that Agnes could not have imagined. While visiting the reservation, her aunt leads her into a vision quest where she "becomes" Mary. She sees a peaceful period, followed by years of death, forced migration, and constant conflict with settlers. Her final role as a respected healer is passed down through Agnes's ancestors, creating the link between the two women. The book ends with a series of historical notes written by Alison, the researcher. Rees manages to carry all of this off through her strong writing style and well-developed characters, using the artifacts that have been preserved in Agnes's family to add to the credibility of the story. The book not only gives readers a view of life 400 years ago and a look at one Native American culture, but also helps them understand what draws someone to historical research by showing that history is the story of people's lives and the events that shape them. While it can stand alone, the novel will be enjoyed more by those who have read Witch Child.-Jane G. Connor, South Carolina State Library, Columbia Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
-- MARY --
Massachusetts, November 1660
If I am a witch, they will soon know it. I had never ill wished anyone, but as I fled Beulah, anger and hatred clashed together, sparking curses like steel striking flint. I had done no wrong, so why was I forced to run like a fugitive? My accusers, Deborah Vane and the other girls, they were the guilty ones. Even as they denounced me as a witch, their eyes gleamed with scheming malice. The madness twisting their faces was counterfeit. Who could not see it? "Them that’s blind and will not see." My grandmother’s words came to me. She was a wise woman, but her wisdom brought her nothing but sorrow. She ended her life on the hanging tree, and now the same fate awaited me.
They searched, and that most diligently. I cowered in Rebekah’s borning room, thinking to be safe for a little time, but they demanded entry even there, their voices ringing loud with right and duty. Only Martha stood against them, defying Reverend Johnson as brave as a robin before a striking hawk. They went away reluctantly. I tracked them searching through the rest of the house, moving from one room to the next, their heavy tread freighted with hatred.
I got away, but they searched for me still. I heard them hallooing through the woods, saw their torches, tiny bonfire sparks in the blackness. I heard the dogs baying and yelling. Dogs run faster than men.
Snow started falling soon after I fled the town, icy pellets seeding the wind. It began to come thick, ever-more whitening the ground, making it easier for the dogs to pick me out. The first to come upon me was old Tom, Josiah Crompton’s hunting dog. He’s a gazehound, hunting by sight. Old Tom came leaping out of the brush toward me and threw back his long, bony head, making a sound deep in his throat, somewhere between a yelp and a swallowed bark of triumph. This brought the other dogs tumbling to him. They stood ringed about, tongues lolling, eyes bright.
They had me cornered. I backed against a tree and stared at them, waiting for them to spring. Tom crept nearer, the others following, the circle tightening, then he stopped. He stood, head inclined, his short ears cocked as if harking to some sound. The men’s shouting was nearer now. I thought that was what he was hearing and that at any minute he would commence barking, but he did not. He gave me one last look, wheeled around, and made off with all the others streaming after him in a rag and tag mob.
The baying and yelling thinned to nothing. Tom had led the hunt away from me. I was alone again in the forest’s frosty silence. I thought to run on, but tiredness overcame me. I sank down, leaning my back against the tree’s rough bark, intending to gather what strength I had.
I have been here ever since. The snow is still falling, drifting through the air and making no sound, feathering across my cheeks like angel fingers, weighting my eyelids, settling upon me, covering me like a counterpane filled with the finest down.
I feel no cold, but I cannot move. My limbs have no feeling in them. To sleep is to die, I know that, but I cannot keep awake. Sometimes I almost hope that they might come back this way, that they might find me, but I dismiss the thought as soon as it arises. I’d rather die here than be taken. I’d rather freeze to this tree than be hanged.
-- AGNES --
Boston, Massachusetts, April, Present Day
Agnes fell forward, cracking her head sharply on the glass. The screen saver jarred and jerked, just for a second, then the monitor went black and she was looking at her own face staring back, eyes dilated by more than the pain in her forehead. What had that been? Vision or dream? She was cold; she was freezing. Her fingers were bloodless and withered, the nails blue. She looked to the window, expecting to see snow falling, but there was nothing. The sky was a clear evening blue.
Whatever had just happened was as real as any experience of her own, anything that she had ever known. She could not stop shivering. She got up and dragged the quilt off the bed. The quilt was serviceable as well as beautiful, a bright Lone Star, Aunt M’s farewell gift to her. Agnes gripped the edges tight, wrapping it close around her, but still she could not get warm. Teeth chattering, she went to the window, opening it onto the quad below. Sodium streetlights were coming on, bronzing the leaves on the trees. Across the way, desk lamps were beginning to show in the windows of rows of little rooms just like her own. She closed the window and in the gathering darkness shifted her focus, turning the glass into a mirror. She stared at the face staring back at her.
Agnes put her hand up, sweeping back her jet-black hair. She wore it long, past her shoulders. She was only eighteen, but already a few silver hairs were threading down from the parting. She would have a white streak there, just as her aunt had, and her grandmother before her. She frowned, thick dark brows drawing down. The eyes beneath were gray, rimmed with black -- unusual, particularly in her family. The color of her eyes and her faraway gaze had caused her grandmother to name her Karonhisake, Searching Sky.
No one called her that here. To her fellow students, to the staff and faculty, she was Agnes Herne. The only time her tribal name was used was when she was back on the reservation. She did not seek to hide her Native American blood. She did not disguise it; neither did she advertise it. It was who she was. She went home as often as time and vacations would allow, but she’d moved away to go to college and she liked to keep her life in separate compartments.