Connecticut, 1666. An ancient spirit is awoken in the darkness of the wood, fed by blood and the prayers of the wild spirits name him Father and Slayer. They lure a clumsy farmer into a cave to feed him to the spirit, making young Abitha a widow. Abitha already doesn’t fit into the Puritan community with her outspoken ways and questioning of the rules. Having grown up in London, Abitha was sold by her drunken father and married off to a stranger, who thankfully turns out to be a gentle and rather simple man. Unfortunately, his gentle ways also make him easy for his domineering older brother to manipulate, and Abitha’s brother-in-law is furious when the community elders allows Abitha to stay on by herself on the farm after her husband’s death. If Abitha is able to raise enough crops to pay off the farm’s debts, it’s her brother-in-law who will be in trouble with the magistrate.
Abitha nearly kills herself working the fields on her own, until she befriends Father (who she names Samson, after the goat that the forest spirits first killed to raise their slayer) and he starts tapping into ancient memories of being one with the land. His magic allows Abitha to grow plenty of corn, but her brother-in-law breaks into the farm at night and burns most of her harvest. Desperate, and unwilling to let her odious brother-in-law win, Abitha makes another deal with Samson, who gets the bees to produce huge amounts of honey and honeycomb, allowing Abitha to pay off her debts.
Abitha’s mother, who died when she was still a teenager, was a wise woman, who helped people with simples and healing potions. Abitha has also been helping some of the women and young girls in the community with little blessings and managed to cure one of the preachers’ daughters of measles. This obviously comes back to haunt her when her brother-in-law decides to accuse her of witchcraft. Ironically, he’s not entirely wrong, she has been dabbling with magic to succeed, but his wild accusations of her fornicating with the devil are obviously untrue. Sadly, because the community gets carried away, no one is willing to listen to Reverend Carver (whose daughter Abitha healed), and his wife Sarah is accused of aiding a known witch and tortured nearly to death before she finally breaks down and denounces Abitha. The villagers have tortured and murdered Abitha’s cat, humiliated and tortured a kind woman whom Abitha respected, and done their best to torture “the truth” out of Abitha as well. If they want a witch, Abitha is determined to give the community what they want and fear. She accepts Samson’s bargain when he comes to save her (he’s been off fighting his own battle for his identity) and together she and Samson enact vengeance on the community who spurned her.
Full review on my blog.