BEYOND THE BURNING TIME by Kathryn Lasky

BEYOND THE BURNING TIME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Salem witch trials never cease to fascinate kids (and adults), and Lasky's (The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, p. 1131, etc.; Days of the Dead, see p. 1421) novel does capture some of the flavor of that era. But its heroine, 12-year-old Mary Chase, is on the fringe of events, living well outside of Salem Village. Working with her widowed mother to keep their farm going, she has little time for gossip with the girls who become the witches' accusers, and she and her mother are too hard-headed to be sucked into the hysteria. Nearly two-thirds into the book, Mary's mother is accused, and Mary becomes a fugitive, hidden away by her older brother, Caleb, an apprentice ship's carpenter. The story gets distracted by Mary's and Caleb's plans for their mother's rescue, aided by a dashing sea captain. Her narrow escape might make an exciting final sequence in a movie, but the same decorous prose that sets the historical scene so well early in the book isn't the best for action-adventure writing. And it seems like a cop-out to let one victim escape, when so many others died. The book's characters are solidly imagined and appealing, and it's rich in details about life in Puritan New England, but the novel falls short of evoking the true horror of its times -- and why write about Salem's witches if you don't do that?

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
Page count: 276pp
Publisher: Scholastic