The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Finished: Aug. 24, 2009
First Published: Jun. 9, 2009
Genre: historical fantasy,
Peter Petford slipped a long wooden spoon into the simmering iron pot of lentils hanging over the fire and tried to push the worry from his stomach.
Reason for Reading: The Salem witch trials have always been a favourite reading topic of mine so this book obviously piqued my interest. I received a review copy from Voice, Hyperion.
Comments: It's summer break and Connie has just finished her orals for her PhD. She intends on spending the summer coming up with a dissertation topic but her mother has asked her to clean up the ancient family home (which Connie knew nothing of) so she can sell it. Connie says yes against her better judgement and ends up spending the summer in an early 18th century home with no electricity or phone. Upon her arrival she finds a mysterious key with the name Deliverance Dane attached and so begins her research which will take her back to the 1690s and the Salem witch trials as she follows through the 18th century history of mother and daughter passing along a book of utmost importance to the family. But Connie's research also turns deadly as she falls in love with a young man who has a terrible accident and her research becomes obsessively important to a superior at school. Connie ultimately must face a shocking question when she is asked to ponder whether some of the Salem witches might actually have been real witches.
When I first started reading this book I had no idea it contained such a strong supernatural element. Fortunately, I love fantasy and to find the book delving into witch lore was a pleasant surprise on my part. I really enjoyed this book. It was a really fun read. The narrative switches back and forth from the past, 1690s and early 1700s, to Connie's modern day 1991 and also includes her reading from journals and newspapers as she researches the past. Connie herself is a likable character whose straightforward, no-nonsense character is compromised when she meets up with events that challenge her beliefs. The two storylines, past and present, are easily connected and I enjoyed them both equally well, I just wish Deliverance Dane's character had been given more background as she remains rather a vague character.
The plot itself is on the predictable side. I had several things figured out at the start of the book and always seemed to be one step ahead of the plot but, nevertheless, I did still enjoy the whole story and read the book eagerly. I also found Ms. Howe's idea of a Christian witch rather fascinating and entertaining. A unique mythology of witchcraft blended with excellently researched Puritan New England. This will be enjoyed by fans of historical fantasy.
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