Dupped again by the synopsis! When, oh when, will I ever learn? Since I got Salem’s Vengeance by Aaron Galvin from Netgalley, I will post the description that made me do the downloading:
“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 expectations that I had from reading that – let’s just say it didn’t match up. This isn’t a knock on the book. Because I really liked it. But, boy, I wish I had been better prepared. I expected actual supernatural (you know, the reference to the devil’s daughter sort of set that expectation) and found myself facing down another historical.
Well researched, fast paced, and intriguing, Salem’s Vengeance is the story of both what really happened during the Salem Witch Trials and the aftermath of all that lunacy. It’s not non-fiction but in many ways (just the good ones) it feels that way. Upon laying my eyes on the words on the pages of this book, I was transported from my 21st century setting with an e-reader in my lap and a cell phone in my pocket to a time of candles and horse-drawn carriages. Filled with mystery and intrigue, as to who the characters really were, I knew there were surprises coming, and I knew characters weren’t who they professed to be but I was surprised at every turn as to the exact identities of almost all of them, as they were revealed in time.
Know going into this that the language takes a little getting used to. Written in an old English style, similar I would guess to the writings of the time, I did at first find that the reading was slower. The pace of the story wasn’t impacted by it, as that moved fairly quickly. But my ability to read the story was slowed slightly in the beginning by the exact turn of phrase used by the author. Narrated from the perspective of Sarah, our teenage protagonist, her thoughts (and the journal she reads) must have taken considerable time to craft in the language of he 17th century. It was quite impressive.
Maybe I am reading too much in to the story, but it felt a little like a commentary on society and society’s ability to work itself into a paranoid frenzy without having all the facts (or perhaps precisely because of that fact). And, I am reminded on a great quote from the ever wonderful Agent Kay: ” A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it”. And that is what is described here – not once, but twice as we see the events of Sarah’s present day and the events of Salem through a journal Sarah is reading. It is well done too. The author gets just the right amount of facts in front of the characters in each parallel event and the mob mentality takes over, without any logic or reason peeping their head up for even a quick look around. Instead, both have their heads buried firmly, and far, into the ground and events spiral out of control until lots of people are dead. I would like to say that in the world we live in today that could never happen, but it happens more often today with the ability for anyone to push information, on a mass scale, regardless of the truth of it. So, it was interesting to see the parallels between the Trials and what Sarah faces and what society is facing on a near daily basis, across so many aspects of society today. I won’t name any so as to keep this review apolitical, but I conjured many analogies in my mind as I read this book. But, there are a number of excellent lessons here in history repeating itself as well as society’s inability to think rationally at certain times. Even the title, to me, seems to represent multiple things: Hecate’s vengeance, Bishop’s vengeance, Sarah’s once **spoiler alert, highlight to read it** her father is killed. But… oh well… again, maybe I was just reading too much into things.
The funny thing about my expectations not being met is not that I was disappointed. Far from it, in fact. I truly enjoyed this – from start to finish. Even with the need to chart out a few of the characters (especially those in the journal as we read the events of the Salem Trials unfolding) to keep them all straight, I am hard pressed to point to any criticism. The characters were well thought out and obviously the author did significant research. I am sure that added to the genuine historical feel to the book.
One other thing to know – and this is not a criticism either – it is fairly dark. The entire tone of the book (and this too might be in part based on the speech patterns used to tell the story) is dark and creepy. The notion of witches and the devil’s daughter, even without any of it working out to be paranormal in any way, is moody and brooding. It is a revenge story after-all; the telling of horrendous crimes against those in Salem and a fitting (from Hecate’s point of view) fate for those who inflicted the damage upon Salem. It is also the telling of a vicious and evil plan to hunt down and kill others. Darkness is required to pull that off without it seeming comical or melodramatic. I could picture the creepy woods and the tiny little colonial town. The ability to conjure those images with the right amount of sinister-ness was something the author excelled at. I found it easy to form the mental pictures of the forest and the witches dancing around their priestess. And I didn’t feel like the images were from some horror spoof. The author found the perfect balance – I was fearful for the fate of Sarah and her siblings but wasn’t creeped out or rolling my eyes that it was overdone. Again, it was near perfect.
This is how a book should read. The plot was more straightforward that it seems at first. And it was clear that the details of the plot were calculated and planned. There weren’t the haphazard moments where I had to wonder “where did that come from” or “doesn’t that contradict what I read earlier”. Instead, it was near perfect. I was engrossed in the story and had to see how it ended. That’s the way it should be for me. Those are my favorites. And, it was nice to see that this was merely the first in a trilogy. I can’t wait to see what happens to the characters next!
I just wish synopsis writers could have been as close to perfect with what they wrote as Salem’s Vengeance is!