cover image The Betrayal of Maggie Blair

The Betrayal of Maggie Blair

Elizabeth Laird, Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-547-34126-2

The political and religious turbulence of late 17th-century Scotland provides the setting for the hard, somber story of 16-year-old Maggie Blair, orphaned as a toddler and raised by her angry, impious grandmother on the Isle of Bute. Denounced as a witch by an avaricious neighbor and his opportunistic mistress, Maggie's grandmother is hanged, but Maggie escapes across the channel to the village of Kilmacolm, where her father's brother takes her in. That is not the end of her trouble, however, as echoes of the Monmouth Rebellion and the ideological martyrdom of the Covenanters engulf the family that has given her refuge. A five-time nominee for the Carnegie Medal, Laird (The Garbage King) writes assuredly, and Maggie's voice is honest and intrepid, despite the terrors surrounding her. Maggie never fails to recognize the few kindnesses she is shown or to forgive weakness when the intention is good, treasuring her drunken old friend Tam to the very end. Maggie's is not a story of hope—rather, Laird celebrates courage, survival, and the spark of independence that carries Maggie through. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)