Author: Victoria Lamb
Type: Kindle e-book (ARC)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Supernatural
Series: #1 in Tudor Witch trilogy
First Published: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
First Line: "When the power falls on me, it buzzes in the warm, dark spaces of my skull."
Book Description from GoodReads: Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practise the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.
Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg's existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn - despite their very different attitudes to her secret.
Thrilling and fast-paced, this is the first unputdownable story in a bewitching new series.
Note: My sincere thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: When I initially found this book on NetGalley I was drawn to it because it combined two of my favourite genres: historical fiction and supernatural. This book wonders what it would have been like if Princess Elizabeth (who later becomes Queen Elizabeth I) had a witch for a maid while she was forced into exile by her sister, Queen Mary (ie. 'Bloody Mary').
The 1500's were a very tumultuous time and this was a great premise but unfortunately I didn't feel that there was enough of a supernatural element in the overall story. Meg never really embraces her magical powers and therefore magic plays a very minor role in the overall plot.
On the historical fiction side of things there is a lot of political intrigue involving Elizabeth's exile from her sister. Elizabeth is constantly afraid of being charged with heresy and meeting the same fate as her mother, Anne Boleyn. The reader gets to see some of the friction between Elizabeth and her half-sister, Queen Mary and just how volatile Elizabeth's fate is while she's in exile. I liked the fact that the author dives into the very contemptuous issue of Mary (Catholic) versus Elizabeth (Protestant) and yet doesn't spoon feed the reader with her opinions on the subject. The reader is allowed to make up their own mind as to which side they support.
But what didn't sit right with me is, with Elizabeth so concerned about her own life I find it hard that she'd want a witch as a her personal maid. Why take that risk when her sister is looking for any little reason to put her to death? And to take such a risk on a witch that hardly uses her powers too.
Overall, the pace was good, the evil Marcus provided some suspense and the punishments doled out to women accused of being witches at times left me a little squeamish. Unfortunately, the majority of the characters were flat and the story line just wasn't all that interesting. I was assuming that the bulk of the book would surround Elizabeth but unfortunately she was a very tertiary character. I would have loved to have been able to get Elizabeth's point of view to make the story well-rounded.
The bulk of the story was carried by Meg. For being a witch Meg wasn't very interesting and I honestly didn't really like her that much. She was naïve and does some rather stupid things that put her and Elizabeth in mortal danger. I guess that Meg is not the heroine that I was expecting and not one that I could truly get behind and support throughout the book.
There was also a romantic element which was sweet but it felt too 'Romeo and Juliet' for me and the male love interest didn't stand out enough for me. I would have expected someone much more vibrant for Meg to think about a romance with a guy with this man's chosen profession.
This book has its pros and cons but despite some of the weaknesses I'm holding out hope that the future books in this trilogy will bring out a lot more of the magical element of the story.
My Rating: 2.5/5 stars