cover image Born Wicked

Born Wicked

Jessica Spotswood. Putnam, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-399-25745-2

Spotswood’s debut, first in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, is set in an alternate New England circa 1896. The Brotherhood has established a Christian dictatorship by overthrowing a governing caste of witches, and any hint of the arcane is now reason enough to sentence a woman to an asylum or hard labor. Girls must marry or go into the convent by their 17th birthday, and Cate Cahill’s moment of truth is fast approaching. Cate, like her two sisters, is a secret witch, the legacy of a mother who died young trying to produce a male heir. Cate is responsible for protecting her family, a responsibility that does not square with marrying the tempting and handsome Paul McLeod. Her dilemma worsens when an eagle-eyed governess takes up residence, and a mysterious note arrives, urging Cate to seek her mother’s diary. Spotswood falls prey to occasional pedantic exposition, and casting Christians as fascistic chauvinists is nothing new. The pace doesn’t lag, however, and the fate of the Cahill sisters inspires genuine dread by the time the cliffhanger ending arrives. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Feb.)