In Edwards’ debut novel, a young witch in the 16th century fights for her independence in a society that grants few rights and privileges to women.
Alainn McCreary’s father is intimidated by her budding magical abilities. He sends her to be raised as an apprentice to the village’s healer, an elderly woman named Morag. The old woman fears that Alainn will gain the terrible power that led Mara, the only other witch in town, to curse the O’Brien clan’s noble family with terrible infertility, miscarriages and infant mortality; as a result, she encourages Alainn to suppress her magical talent. However, when Alainn helps heal Killian, one of only three heirs of the O’Brien nobility, she lets him in on her magical secret. The pair become fast friends, and he arranges for Alainn to receive an education alongside him and his cousins, Rory and Riley. Killian and Alainn soon begin a love affair, and she has no delusions that they’ll be allowed to be together long term, but Killian, who’s unaccustomed to being told no, has more romantic—albeit less realistic—aspirations. Edwards’ debut novel gets off to a bit of a slow start, and some of the characters’ back stories are difficult to keep track of. However, she ultimately delivers an exciting, well-researched first series installment; its ending, in particular, will challenge readers. Alainn provides a beautiful example of a strong, self-determined female character, as she struggles in a patriarchal society that uses overt sexual violence to keep power. Readers will be delighted to follow her as she works to forge her own happy ending, especially when that means defying society’s expectations.
A powerful, surprising fantasy that will leave readers excited for the next book in the series.