"A deliciously lyrical novel that is powerful, suspenseful, and taut, with danger on every page."
Libba Bray, author of A Great and Terrible Beauty
"With its thought-provoking perceptions about human nature, magic and persecution, this tale will surely cast a spell over readers."
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Hearn creates a richly magical ambiance, straddling the line between the supernatural and the concrete realm of human passions and weaknesses."
Horn Book, starred review
"Dramatic and frothy...provocative."
"A well-written historical novel that reads like a mystery."
Wall Street Journal
In a starred review, PW wrote, "British author Hearn makes a memorable American debut with this tightly woven tale of a witch hunt." Ages 12-up. (Dec.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
The year 1645 finds England caught in changing spiritual beliefs. This book represents that shift, with characters that will grab and hold young adult readers. Nell is the "cunning woman's" granddaughter. All her life she has been learning about herbs and lore, piskies, fairies, and other little people, and how to birth babies. Now the dark cloak of senility is falling down over her grandmother's eyes. She owes much to this woman who took her in and raised her, even though she was "merrybegot" (a child born out of wedlock, revered by those who believe in folk wisdom). Another merrybegot has been conceived in the story. This is the unwanted child of Grace, the unmarried daughter of the severe Puritan minister. Grace knows there is only one way out of this predicament, to accuse Nell of witchcraft and claim her unborn child the devil's spawn. Patience, Grace's innocent and unbecoming sister, is unwittingly roped into the delusion and so are the suspicious townsfolk. The book is structured so that narratives by Patience and Nell are told from a third person point-of-view in present tense. Patience's apologetic introspectives from 1692 are interspersed in first person past tense from the vantage point of the Salem witch trials. The book is a graceful, believable blend of differing perspectives, folklore, and history, and the conflict that comes when there's a tremendous shift in belief. 2005, Atheneum, Ages 12 up.
Grace and Patience Madden are the daughters of a Puritan minister in an English west country village in 1645. Nell is the granddaughter of the village's cunning woman, a girl conceived in magic and marked by the piskies as one of their own. Conflict among the three is inevitable and erupts when Nell refuses to aid Grace in hiding the evidence of her indiscretion with the blacksmith's son. Multiple points of view (including a "confession" by a much older Patience) and the mixing of magic and madness muddy this otherwise familiar witch-trial story. The tidy ending saves those who need saving and hints at punishment for the wrongdoers, connecting the events of 1645 England to 1692 Salem, Massachusetts. The gorgeous cover will draw readers to the book, and its occasional unexpected plot twists will keep them turning the pages, but ultimately the novel spends too much time in ambitious contrivances and not enough in character development (with the notable exception of Nell). Despite its flaws, the book is sure to be a popular late summer read. Buy it for its lovely package and for the promise of more from an author new to our shores. VOYA CODES: 3Q 5P J S (Readable without serious defects; Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Atheneum/S & S, 272p., Ages 12 to 18.
Grace, a minister's daughter with high expectations to live up to, conceives a child out of wedlock and must hide her sin. Nell is a merrybegot, a child of nature, and has been raised with knowledge of herbal remedies and paganism to become the next healer of the village after her grandmother passes away. When a recognition-hungry “witch finder” moves into town to get to the bottom of the minister's daughter's secret, will the village people believe the witch finder as evidence against Nell piles up? Written in third person, The Minister's Daughter follows each major character's perspective as paths cross and conflict occurs. Julie Hearn has done her research well regarding the motives behind the Salem witch trials. Hearn also adds a unique fantasy element, Nell's healing ability, which may hold appeal or provide distraction for some readers. This fictional look at Salem is appropriate for the early high school audience. 2005, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 263 pp., Ages young adult.
In Cromwellian England, Nell is the granddaughter of the village healing woman, called a cunning woman. Nell is learning her grandmother's craft when a new minister comes to town, determined to rid the town of evil and of witches. The minister has two daughters, Patience and Grace. Grace develops a hatred of Nell, especially when Nell's grandmother refuses to give her a "remedy" that would get rid of the girl's unborn child, and she schemes to get back at Nell and her grandmother. Patience pretends to know nothing of the evil her sister is planning, and even goes along with claiming that Nell put curses on them. In another ambience, a magical one, Nell helps a fairy woman deliver her child, and is given a magic charm that will save the life of one person. When Nell's grandmother is dying after having been dunked in the pond by the villagers, who think she is a witch, Nell wants to use the magic charm to save her life, but her grandmother refuses. As Grace's scheme grows to see Nell hanged as a witch, Nell uses the magic charm to save a boy she finds dying out in the countryside. Grace's scheme succeeds, and Nell is condemned to hang. At the final moment, she is rescued by the boy whose life she saved, who turns out to be Prince Charlie, later to become King Charles II. The Prince takes Nell away and she develops a new life for herself. Grace eventually gives birth to her child, who the minister's housekeeper attempts to kill. By coincidence, the baby is saved by the woman who was Nell's only friend in the town. Part of the story is told by Patience, who expresses much regret at her behavior and that of her sister.
Gr 7 Up-In 1645, England is plunged into a Civil War pitting Puritans against Royalists, and is swept by a craze of witch-hunting, targeting women who practice healing arts drawn from ancient lore. Hearn intertwines the stories of three girls in one village. Two are daughters of the new minister, a man who fulminates against the old pagan ways, and Nell, who is the granddaughter of the local cunning woman. Because the elderly woman is failing in mind and body, Nell must quickly learn her skills and lore, including midwifery to humans and fairies. Meanwhile Grace, the minister's beautiful elder daughter, pregnant by a lad who runs away to be a soldier, draws her sister Patience into a conspiracy to blame her condition on witchcraft practiced by Nell and her grandmother. Caught up in Grace's hysteria, the villagers dunk the old woman in a pond and condemn Nell to hang. Chapters set in 1645 are written in third-person, present tense, and alternate with adult Patience's first-person, past tense, which readers later learn is her testimony during the Salem, MA, witch trials of 1692. These varied perspectives allow readers to penetrate lies and concealment. While piskies and fairies provide an element of fantasy that contributes to surprising plot twists, the novel is best described as entertaining historical fiction, paying tribute to wise, unconventional women whose skills come from an understanding of the natural world, not from supernatural powers. Engaging characters and a palpable sense of place combine with an accessible, clear style to make this a satisfying read.-Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The year is 1645, and Nell, the village "cunning woman's" granddaughter, has been learning the healer's trade, desperately hoping to conceal her grandmother's increasing senility until she is able to take her place. At one margin of her world lurk the piskies and fairies that represent the old ways she follows; at the other, the forces of modernization in the forms of the Puritan minister and the English Civil War. The spikily independent Nell's conscientiousness brings her into contact and conflict with the minister's daughters: Grace, unmarried and pregnant, and Patience, her simple sister, whose imperfect apprehension of the tensions swirling around her form an eerie counter narrative, taken down during the 1692 witch panic of Salem Village. Hearn develops each character with exquisite care, the month-by-month narration ratcheting up the tension as Grace's belly swells and the minister casts about for scapegoats. Even though Patience's retrospective account, appearing as it does in the chapter breaks, lends an air of dreary inevitability, the old Powers have a way of enforcing their own rules. The result is twinned endings, one eminently satisfying, the other satisfyingly unsettling. Tremendous. (Fiction. YA)