Book Review: The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston
I was actually leaning more toward historical fiction for this book until demons and Satan showed up and the story tripped all over itself to end up firmly in the fantasy genre. The beginning of the book presents magic in a rational form, something that any craft practitioner would recognize today, and I believed the story would continue in that vein. But in the middle of the book the author takes a sharp left with how she is portraying magic and things get a bit silly from that standpoint. From Wicca to Harry Potter in the space of one chapter.
“Elizabeth Hawksmith is immortal, aging slowly for the past few centuries. When Bess was young, the plague came to her village and killed the majority of her family. In a desperate bid to save her life, Bess’ mother traded her own life so that her remaining daughter would be spared, making a deal with a man who might be worse than the devil himself. Bess’ mother was hung as a witch and Bess fled her childhood home and the man responsible for making her immortal. In Victorian London, Eliza contends with the infamous Jake the Ripper and during World War 1 Elise finds herself in the middle of the carnage. Both times she encounters the man who has hunted her for the past three centuries. Today, Elizabeth continues to be wary of her past catching up with her but she might just find someone worth fighting for.”
I’ve said before that I like the author’s trick of using different names for each time period. It makes it simple to keep each story arc in place, even though they are the same person. What I don’t like is that the flashbacks are told in third person, while the present timeline is told in diary form. I loathe diary form. It’s told in first person and is very limiting, making the reader feel like they are watching a movie that continues to skip and no amount of thumping the player will make it stop. I realize that using diary form for the present timeline is just another way of identifying and separating the different eras, but it just makes me twitch.
Despite using one of my least favored writing forms, I liked the book. The main character was both a strong, capable woman and someone running away from their fears. Elizabeth is someone a reader can identify with and her personality is very down to earth, regardless of the fantastical nature of the magic in this book. There is a young girl character in the book that is a teenager and acts perfectly like it; meaning that I mostly just wanted to throw things at her. Love and obsession are far reaching themes in this book and they often blind the characters to what is really going on.
The ending was a bit anticlimactic and disappointing. The big duel between the powers of good and the powers of evil did happen but was told to us after the events in a diary entry by the teenage girl character. Instead of actually being shown the duel, we are told about it after the fact. The parts told in third person through the book are great but the parts told in diary form fall flat and having the big finish related like that was a huge let down to me. The concept of how the book is put together and told is unique but it did not enhance the book for me but rather subtracted.