cover image Enter Three Witches

Enter Three Witches

Caroline B. Cooney, . . Scholastic, $16.99 (281pp) ISBN 978-0-439-71156-2

Cooney (The Face on the Milk Carton ; Code Orange ) fashions a compulsively readable, behind-the-scenes peek into the rise and fall of Lord and Lady Macbeth, told from the points of view of several of the play's minor characters plus a handful of invented ones. As the central tale proceeds inexorably from triumph to betrayal to tragedy, several subplots unfold. Sweet-natured Lady Mary (daughter of the Thane of Cawdor) was sent to learn the domestic arts from elegant but icy Lady Macbeth. Her circumstances take a turn for the worse when her father is declared a traitor to the king, her fiancé dies in battle, and she is offered in marriage to Seyton, Macbeth's henchman, a ruthless man who will do whatever it takes to acquire a fortune. Banquo's son fights in his first battle and then must determine where his loyalties lie when Macbeth's thugs kill his father. Sturdy, independent-minded Swin runs the kitchen with an iron fist but dispenses unexpected kindness on the sly. Meanwhile, embittered Ildred comes to terms with a terrible betrayal and eventually rediscovers a rewarding way to live. These briskly narrated plot lines and more unfold in bite-size scenes, each prefaced by a related quote from the Bard's play. Thus, each of Shakespeare's lines gets enough space so that it can be savored by readers who might otherwise be intimidated by the dense, unfamiliar language. This more human-scale vision offers an easy way in for readers new to the play, and will also reward those familiar with the grand tragedy. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)