Some of us may be attempting to outrun our past, sprinting away from it, cowering away each time it knocks into our lives, unwanted, repeatedly, almost as though our lives are a perpetual series of cycles. We can choose to keep running, hoping our dark demons will fade, or we can stand up to them, terrified, but with confidence. And that is the premise of The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston. Of course, all combined with dark magic, a dark magic that was sparked during desperate times when a mother wanted to keep her child alive and magic was the only option.
Now let's rewind to the plot of The Witch's Daughter. Initially, the book is set during the time of plague. A young girl named Bess Hawksmith lives happily with her mother, Annie, her father, John, her older brother, Thomas, and younger sister, Margaret. As they struggle to live during the year of 1627, suddenly, the plague storms their house and John, Thomas, and Margaret all fall dead. As Bess falls ill with the plague, Annie cannot bear to see her last loved one go, and so she turns to the mysterious, cunning Gideon Masters for help. Gideon Masters trains her in witchcraft so she can save Bess' life.
When the disgruntled town needs a scapegoat for their misery after the plague has passed, they blame Annie, accusing her of being a witch. She is set to be hung.
Bess asks mother,
Tell me, what price did you pay for this magic?
(The Witch's Daughter, page 84, Paula Brackston)
A clear response is not given.
Inside the cell, the night before her mother's death, Annie tells Bess,
After tomorrow... no, do not weep...after tomorrow you must go to Gideon.
(The Witch's Daughter, page 106, Paula Brackston)
Upon her mother's last words of advice, Bess goes. There with the unusual, twisted, demanding Gideon Masters, she is trained in witchcraft day in and day out. She becomes a witch, gaining powers to shield herself, and, thus, becomes immortal. However, while Gideon keeps her alive, she must pay a heavy price, a sickening price she does not want. But there is nowhere else to go: she has no family, the town is now accusing her of witchcraft and will have her hung, and no options are left. Sticking with her Mother's last words, she remains with Gideon, further learning the ways of witchcraft, despite the burden on her head. When she finally gains the strength to leave, Gideon stops at nothing, determined to have his price is paid; thus, the deal follows Bess throughout her immortal life.
Upon her departure, she attempts to begin new lives, reinventing herself as Eliza, the assistant to the well-respected surgeon while also running her own clinic, or Elise, the nurse working in the resuscitation tent during the war, or Elizabeth, who sells healing herbs and becomes friends with the young, inquiring Tegan.
However, no matter how many times she reinvents herself, her past always catches up. Gideon Masters is constantly on the prowl, demanding the payment for all the witchcraft he has taught Bess and her deceased mother. He will pay any price or conduct any scheme to ensure his wish is paid, ruining every life Bess attempts to live, making all her escapes end miserably.
When at last Bess thinks she is safe, he brings his cunning ways upon her new, naïve, innocent friend, Tegan, whom Bess is slowly teaching the ways of the Hedge Witch. And that is when Bess realizes she can run no more and must face her past and make her demons disappear before she sees another one she loves in her immortal life suffer for her sake. The question is...how will she conquer her daunting past...and is she willing to pay the price?
The Witch's Daughter is a must read for anyone who loves magic set in the real world, who craves a well-written novel with historical elements along with romance and witchcraft tied into a tension-filled plot and vivid imagery, and, of course, who seeks an escape from their own lives if only for a moment.