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by Carol Matas

Age Range: 12 - 16

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-32097-3
Publisher: Delacorte

 Matas (Daniel's Story, 1993, etc.) depicts the persecution of women accused of witchcraft in a 16th-century French village. When a witch-hunter with full power to condemn arrives, Rose's mother, Suzanne, is the first suspect. She's a healer who has earned the local doctor's enmity by saving the countess in childbirth. Rose's father, whose mercantile prosperity has aroused his peasant neighbors' envy, has just died in a fall from a horse and his pretty, independent widow has rejected sexual overtures from both her brother-in-law, who covets her inheritance, and the parish priest. After Suzanne is imprisoned, Rose (with the help of a friend at the castle) secretly visits her cell. Forced to hide in another room before she can leave, she witnesses Suzanne's torture and confession; later, accused herself, Rose returns with a suicide potion for her doomed mother, then escapes. The historical injustice resonates, but Matas's earnest dramatization is sabotaged by an excess of unlikely contrivances; and though her details are plausible, there are too few particulars to make the milieu more than generically medieval, while the focus on Suzanne's torment borders on sensationalism. (Fiction. 12-16)