I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Diversion Books on July 16, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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The greatest danger facing New Salem comes from inside its own walls.
For sixteen-year-old Ruth, life in New Salem is simple. Obey her parents, go to school, stay inside the walls, and never question the will of the Council. The Council governs New Salem and keeps its people safe, burning mysterious effigies to remind the villagers of the physical and spiritual dangers that seek to infiltrate New Salem's walls.
When Ruth takes to exploring the woods at night, she makes a terrifying and exhilarating discovery: she and her friends Sarah and Elizabeth are witches. But it's dangerous to be different in New Salem, and it isn't long before rumors of witchcraft spread from the Council to the townspeople. After Elizabeth is imprisoned by the Council, it is up to Ruth and Sarah to fulfill their destiny. A coven of witches harbors great strength, and it is only with that strength that they will be able to save New Salem.
Witch Hunt is unexpected. It starts off in New Salem with Abigail, a young woman, being burned alive, much like what happened in the original Salem. The difference being, of course, that the townsfolk don’t realize what’s happening. The fire is smothered in sweet-burning incense, and for some reason no one can hear her screams. It’s a horrific start to the novel, and the horror only continues to grow as you begin to realize the insidious truth behind all the banishments that have gone on for untold years.
Ruth and her friends Elizabeth and Sarah have manifested magical talents, and even though they have been raised to fear witchcraft, they have fun with their magic and bond together, establishing themselves as a small coven. Unfortunately, all is not right in their town of New Salem, and the deaths aren’t about to stop just because there is a coven of witches in town. Things get worse, actually, and the girls are betrayed by each other and by others in town.
The characters are developed really well, especially for such a short novel. While we stay with Ruth’s point of view after the prologue, it’s easy to fall into her head and believe everything she tells you, leading to the shocking twists when she is surprised by something. I love when you can sink so deep into a character that you see things the same way they do, with their biases and beliefs clouding things.
And the latter half of the book was… Well, it’s definitely not what I expected from the start! See, this is New Salem, and the old world, our world, is gone, right? But New Salem feels a lot like old Salem with the same prejudices and beliefs. Girls are shunned for spending time with boys, one girl is banished for turning up with a red mark on her neck (I assume that was a hickey), and getting pregnant outside of wedlock is pretty much the worst thing ever (except for witchcraft and murder which trumps everything). But things aren’t as they seem to be in New Salem.
What starts off as a dystopian fantasy turned into something far from that, though the fantasy part remained. This was definitely a unique and interesting novel from Tabitha Morrow. I’m interested in seeing what she comes up with next!