Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
In this first installment of the Witches of Cahill trilogy, Jessica Spotswood has created a world that is magical and sometimes downright terrifying. Set in an alternate reality of New England in the 1890s, witchcraft is absolutely forbidden, and witches are hunted down by the oppressive, religious Brotherhood. Women are instructed to be meek, and should either serve their husband or serve The Sisterhood, the feminine offshoot of The Brotherhood. For the Cahill sisters, life is a constant struggle of protecting their identities as witches and finding their way through life without their mother. The majority of this burden falls on Cate, the eldest sister of the three. Cate has been hiding their secret for years, but soon learns that isn’t enough. After uncovering an unexpected prophecy and learning secrets about the Sisterhood that challenge everything she understands about their existence, Cate may have to sacrifice everything to protect the ones she loves.
The first thing that drew me into this story was the graceful writing style and exceptional alternative history that pulls from both the Puritan period in America and the Salem Witch Trials to create a verdant history one could easily get lost in. Through Spotswood’s descriptions, everything seemed so real and lush that I could feel the fabrics of the dresses and skirts, and taste the food, good and bad, in the Cahill household. She is able to infuse everything with magic, from the most horrifying moments to the most mundane. Along with her fabulous style of writing, Spotswood did a fantastic job juggling multiple themes such as religion and feminism (just to name a few) without making the reader feel as if any of it was being rammed down their throat. That takes true talent.
As soon as I was pulled into the story, I fell in love with the characters. Spotswood’s talented writing did not stop with the description of the world they lived in. In fact, I believe her writing blossomed even more with the characters. They seemed so real, the sort of well-written characters who explode off the page and come to life in your mind. Although I found myself entranced by all three Cahill sisters, I became very emotionally invested in Cate. Her independent spirit and stubbornness quickly made her my favorite character, and I believe she may become a much-loved heroine among fans of young adult literature. She is strong and smart, yet at the same time afraid that the next knock on the door might be The Brotherhood coming to take her or one of her sisters away. Her total dedication to protecting them is heartbreaking and gripping. Throughout the story, Spotswood makes you feel each and every one of her emotions for yourself.
Cate’s sisters, Maura and Tess, were also very well developed. Maura was a brat and a continuous source of trouble for Cate. More often than not she was the cause of chaos within the Cahill home. While most often you might find you wanted to slap her, occasionally you wanted to comfort her. Sounds just right for a middle sister in a family, doesn’t it? Tess, on the other hand, was brilliant. Even though she was the youngest of the three sisters, she was wise well beyond her years and was really likeable. I really enjoyed the dynamic between all three sisters.
As for the boys, you have the best friend from childhood returned and the intellectual son of the bookstore owner. What a selection for Cate! The way Spotswood works through the relationships between them truly shows the angst Cate felt when trying to decide between two totally different young men. Other than that, I can’t say too much without giving away what happens in the story and I just can’t do that.
I truly loved the world Spotswood has created. It has the charming appeal of a historical romance with the adventure and gripping suspense of all the best in fiction. The constant pulling of emotions in opposite directions was giftedly done, and the ending made me want to cry, scream, and throw the book across the room all at once. There was never a dull moment, so I found myself riveted to each page up until the very end. I can’t wait to see what happens next in the story of the Cahill sisters.