Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1) by Jessica Spotswood -- February 7, 2012 -- Hardcover, 330 pages, Putnam (9780399257452)
"Our mother was a witch, too, but she hid it better."
Cate Cahill and her sisters, Tess and Maura, are different from the other girls in town. They're too educated, too well read, and keep to themselves most of the time. They're also hiding a very big secret: they're all witches, just like their deceased mother. However, being a witch in 19th century Chatham is dangerous business, especially when accusations of witchery have become unbearably rampant in recent years. The Brotherhood is starting to crack down on the women of the town, and targeting young girls who are a bit odd, or defiant, or who exhibit lustful behavior. The girls are then sent to a prison ship, or Harwood Asylum, but more often than not, the girl's are never heard from again. Now, Cate must do everything in her power to protect her sisters from exposing their powers to anyone other than themselves, lest they be punished for their wicked deeds. The situation is made even more complicated when a handsome suitor and Cate's childhood friend, Paul, shows up to ask for her hand in marriage, a role she would happily accept if it weren't for the fact that she'd have to leave her sisters in Chatham unprotected, and she is finding herself falling in love with the reclusive but kind gardener, Finn.
Born Wicked was a wonderful start to what I hope to be a very satisfying series. Although the writing is a bit younger in my opinion, I found this was balanced out by the types of issues presented throughout the story, such as familial obligation, the roles women are forced into, how religious zealots dictate power over people, and having to hide your true nature in an intolerant world. I think readers will find the story content to be quite topical, which is rather distressing but at least this novel is presenting the issues to an audience whose recent crop of literature has included far too many "fluffy" stories that lack substance or strong female leading roles. I believe most readers will find satisfaction in the much more active Cate Cahill.
The story itself takes place in the alternate historical setting of 1896, in the town of Chatham, Maine. For years, witches, who are descendants of Persephone, have been left to their own devices. However, the Brotherhood has decided to take back their power, and has begun punishing women for crimes of witchery in order to keep women from assuming roles of leadership. Cate and her sisters have been practicing magic in secrecy since their mother first began teaching them at a young age. Now that Anna Cahill is deceased, Cate has taken up the role of maternal figure, and although she still allows the practice of magic under very strict guidelines, her sisters feel that she is not devoting enough of her time to cultivating her own person. Now, Cate's coming out ceremony is fast approaching, and she must make the decision to take a husband, or join the Sisterhood, neither of which she wants to do, for it would mean leaving her sisters without her guidance. Her decision, she finds, may not end up being hers to make, for the town of Chatham holds many secrets, and for the Cahill sisters, the wrath of the Brotherhood may be the least of their worries.
Jessica Spotswood presents us with a captivating read from beginning to end. Born Wicked offers chapter after chapter of shocking surprises and unexpected character deviance. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the story progresses, but be warned! Born Wicked leaves off on a cliff hanger, and Star Cursed, book #2 in the series, doesn't come out until February of next year!
"I only hope I can live with the consequences."
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What were your thoughts on Born Wicked? What would your intention ceremony decision have been? Are you looking forward to reading the second book in the series?