Salem’s Vengeance by Aaron Galvin
I received a copy of this novel on NetGalley for an honest review.
Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kelly never expected to meet the Devil’s daughter. She only sought innocent dancing in the moonlight, not a coven entranced by their dark priestess. When her friends partake of a powder meant to conjure spirits – and the results go horribly awry – Sarah is forced to make a choice. To keep their secret risks her own damnation, but to condemn them may invoke the accusing remnants of Salem to rise again.
The Salem Witch Trials have always fascinated me and as a lover of all things paranormal and occult, I was really excited to start this book. As a History major, I was happy that the author included the modern-day perspective on what likely caused the accusers to experience fits of mania and other “cursed” behaviors. Galvin framed his story around the scientific explanation of ergot poisoning instead of using actual paranormal elements, which I thought was refreshing. While the story is based on true events of history along with science, he still wove in his own fictionalized tale of conspiracy and betrayal.
That being said, the story was just…ok. I mean I liked it, it wasn’t bad. However, I kept putting it down to do other things and I wasn’t crazy about needing to get back to reading it. I also read several other books in between that held my attention more. The language used was a problem for me. Galvin wrote the story entirely in the vocabulary style of the day. Unfortunately, I felt that the way it was executed was overdone. Other novels have used the language of history to their advantage, such as A Great and Terrible Beauty. I felt the author was trying too hard, just throwing in “nigh” and “ere” haphazardly. The root in history was what drove me to continue reading.
My main fault lies in the characters. I really did not like Sarah. Sarah is the protagonist. That is an issue. I found her to be extremely annoying. She is a naïve girl who cannot think for herself and is constantly “oh, woe is me, whatever can I do?” She is also entirely submissive to the males in the story, particularly her father. I realize this is set in a historical period where that was the norm. However, Sarah seems completely content with her “place,” rarely mentioning any feelings of resentment of her submission as a fair female. Towards the end of Salem’s Vengeance, there was some development of her character, but I felt it was only because of the dire situation rather than any true development. There was also a bad case of insta-love between Sarah and a character who legitimately says no words. He is portrayed as the strong silent type with secrets in his past and she falls for him hard. They barely exchange 3 sentences and t hat is within the last chapters of the book! Irritating.
At times, I felt like I was rooting more for Hecate, the “Devil’s Daughter.” Yes, she is an evil woman who takes pleasure in making others suffer. However, as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Hecate was wronged by those close to Sarah and it makes her quest for vengeance seem almost justified. Still, she turns two of Sarah’s best friends against her with the evil “powder” where they are basically on drugs. I didn’t feel that bad for them, which says something about their characters.
The one character I did like was Bishop, the crass Irishman with an aversion to attachments. I felt his use of language was more believable and I loved how he didn’t care what any one of the righteous idiots thought. He was on a mission, he had a purpose. This is in direct contrast to the rest of the characters who were skittering around terrified and only acting reactionary. I did enjoy the ending of the novel, but it just took so long to get there. The showdown with the “witches” definitely had the action and story I was craving, I just wish the same could be said of the whole novel.
- Rooted the story in history and science
- Added an interesting plot of betrayal and conspiracy
- Crass Irishman
The Not So Good
- Irritating and passive main characters
- Pacing issues, took forever to get to the end which did not quite redeem the rest
- Overuse of “historical” vocabulary that hindered the story telling rather than enhancing
If you are not as bothered by constant use of historical vocabulary that doesn’t really enhance the story and can deal with an irritating main character, then by all means! The historical story woven with conspiracy did keep my attention. I would recommend this as a book to read in between others when you want something quick.