Witchstruck – Book Review
Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practise the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.
Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg's existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn - despite their very different attitudes to her secret...
I’m a big fan of historical novels, particularly anything set during the Tudor period. Therefore, when I first heard about Witchstruck – a historical YA about a young witch working as a maid to Princess Elizabeth – I just knew I had to get my hands on this book! And I’m pleased to say, it turned out to be a very good read.
Written in the first person, the story follows Meg Lytton, a witch in training who is sent to the Palace of Woodstock to serve the Princess Elizabeth – who at this time, remains imprisoned under house arrest due to the treasonous charges brought against her by her sister Mary, Queen of England.
Therefore when two priests from the Spanish inquisition are sent to Woodstock to report on the Princesses faith, Meg knows that if she is caught doing magic, it will guarantee that both she and her royal mistress are sent to the noose. However, the temptation to call upon her power is too great and Meg soon finds herself in a great deal of trouble.
With a notorious witch hunter determined to see her hang, and Elizabeth on the verge of losing both her life and claim to the throne, Meg knows she must find help fast. However, abandoned by her family and shunned by her fellow servants, Meg is soon to learn that help can come from the most unlikely of people… even from those who fate has dubbed her enemy. Yet what hope of love could the future possibly hold for an accused witch, and a Spanish catholic priest…?
I really enjoyed Witchstruck as not only was it full of danger and intrigue, but it was thick with political plots, betrayals, and of course – forbidden romance. Also while purely fictional, the story contains elements of history and I particularly liked that characters such as John Dee got to make an appearance in the story.
All the characters were very engaging, yet my favourite character had to be the young Spanish Priest, Alejandro. Struggling between following his faith and his heart, his mixed signals towards Meg created a romance full of anticipation and heart-thumping goodness.
Yet on the flip side to Alejandro, the antagonist, Marcus Dent was a truly horrid character and I hated him from the get go. A man of the church, he abused his power for his own purposes and all in all, he made a fantastic villain who portrayed the corruption of the church magnificently.
However it was the atmosphere of this book that really held my attention. I thought Victoria Lamb did a brilliant job in capturing the fear and mistrust of an era when danger lurked everywhere, where no one was certain of which religion to up hold, nor which royal princess would lead their country. It was a time when rebels, non-Catholics and witches alike were all sentenced to death, yet I admire how the author showed how people – so desperate for someone to blame for their misfortunes – encouraged and supported these witch hunts where so many innocent women were sentenced to such horrific deaths.
Also I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Meg. Inheriting the gift of magick from her mother, witchcraft is very much a part of who she is, and she feels compelled to use her gifts to help where she can. Although she is nearly always in trouble, Meg is a strong and brave heroin and I’m looking forward to seeing how she will develop as a character.
So overall I thought Witchstruck was a great read. It is a book I would recommend to fan’s of authors such as Mary Hooper and Ceila Rees, along with anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a bit of fantasy thrown in. 3 stars!