Science fiction and fantasy
by Celia Rees
Mary is very careful to hide her past and to go unnoticed, but she's an outsider with a natural tendency to rebel. Her skills with herbs and healing, and even her ability to read and write mark her out as different and put her in danger. The ship to the New World is a claustrophobic place to be, and when the pilgrims must stay together for the sake of their own survival there's little chance of any privacy.
An atmosphere of fear pervades the novel, as Mary struggles against the constraints of a strict Puritan way of life. She is terrified that she will be unveiled as an impostor, but on the frontier there are few places to run. The primitive and often squalid lives of the settlers are brought vividly into focus as they face the very real possibility of death with startling regularity.
Witch Child is an intense novel, close and personal. Mary is a young character on the brink of womanhood, and so inevitably there are hints of romance and relationships, but this book pays more attention to issues such as the psychology of persecution and faith. There's just enough of a whiff of the supernatural to keep you guessing whether Mary really is a witch, or if it's all in her head. It's a fast-paced story which pays close attention to historical details. If there's a fault it's that some of the less significant characters lack nuance. But on the whole this is a gripping, intelligent story that will leave readers with plenty to think about.
If you like this, try:Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers
A convent-trained assassin roots out plots at the 15th century Breton court. Book one of the His Fair Assassin series.
The Enterprise Of Death by Jesse Bullington
A story of necromancy, warfare and painting in Renaissance Europe.
The Pillars of the World by Anne Bishop
The first book set in the world of the Fae and Tir Alainn.