I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres. The two men, dressed for work in dark red cloaks and charred leather gloves, circle the narrow wooden platforms, their lit torches held high. At the top of each pyre, four witches and three wizards stand chained to a stake, bundles of wood heaped around their feet. They stare into the crowd, determined looks on their faces.
I don’t know what they did; they weren’t my captures. But I do know there will be no apologies from them. No last-minute pleas for mercy, no scaffold-step promises to repent.
Published by Orchard in UK. Little Brown in US
Published September 2015
Cover design by Thy Bui
Summary from Orchard Books website
Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Grey doesn't look dangerous. A tiny, blonde, wisp of a girl shouldn't know how to poison a wizard and make it look like an accident. Or take out ten necromancers with a single sword and a bag of salt. Or kill a man using only her thumb. But things are not always as they appear. Elizabeth is one of the best witch hunters in Anglia and a member of the king's elite guard, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and bringing those who practise it to justice. And in Anglia, the price of justice is high: death by burning.
When Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself, she's arrested and thrown in prison. The king declares her a traitor and her life is all but forfeit. With just hours before she's to die at the stake, Elizabeth gets a visitor - Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in Anglia. He offers her a deal: he will free her from prison and save her from execution if she will track down the wizard who laid a deadly curse on him.
As Elizabeth uncovers the horrifying facts about Nicholas's curse and the unwitting role she played in its creation, she is forced to redefine the differences between right and wrong, friends and enemies, love and hate... and life and death.
This is an entertaining and fast-paced story of medieval witchcraft ideal for the mass market. It has an unusual take on reasons for the suppression of magic and presents the sexist double-standards of the time convincingly. It is however not the for the purist: it freestyles history like the film ‘A Knight’s Tale’.
If you just go with the pseudo- Tudor world of Anglia, you’ll enjoy the humour and action. Fun comes from the verbal exchanges of the characters with the odd bit of almost slapstick thrown in. It is a bit ghoulish – but in a stylised rather than over-graphic way for 13+ readers. It feels right to show the barbarity of this parallel 16th century world. Happily, it passes the Bechdel test with a brave heroine and her friends. There is a pleasing love interest – which will no doubt develop in the next books of the series.
As you can tell from the bold cover, there’s dark magic and peril involved. Curl up with chocolates and a candle to keep the spooks at bay when you read it.