Celia Rees,
(Bloomsbury, 2002;
Candlewyck, 2003)

In present-day New England, Native American teenager Agnes Herne reads the newly unearthed diary of self-proclaimed witch Mary Newbury (the basis for the novel Witch Child) and senses a connection between herself and the long-dead Puritan settler.

First drawn into the historical mystery by scholar Alison Ellman, who transcribed and published the hidden Newbury diary, Agnes soon finds herself returning to the Mohawk reservation of her childhood to pursue a series of vision quests under the guidance of her more spiritual Aunt M. Through her visions, Agnes learns the unwritten details of Mary's life after fleeing the Puritan village of Beulah into the unforgiving Massachusetts wilderness and a fierce, relentless blizzard.

Interspersed with scenes from Agnes and Alison's separate quests for enlightenment, Mary's story unfolds in dramatic fashion. Celia Rees has penned the events in Mary's life in episodic form, almost like additional entries in the diary "revealed" in Witch Child. (In case anyone's unclear, this is a novel, not an actual diary, although Rees makes it convincingly realistic -- even including a series of end notes about Alison's research.) The story involves several Native American tribes, as well as some of the European settlers who steadily moved across the land. There is peace and love, distrust and war, victory and hardship, birth and death as Mary grows from adolescence into maturity.

Those who enjoyed Witch Child will also be pleased to learn the fates, both good and bad, of various characters from that book.

Sorceress is a delightful book, an excellent sequel and further proof that Rees is one of the top writers of young-adult historical fiction working today. I recommend both books highly.

by Tom Knapp
3 September 2005

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