Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review: The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

The Witch's Daughter 
by Paula Brackston 
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Received: Library
Rating 1 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page

This is an ADULT book!
Some scenes may not be suitable for younger readers. 


From Goodreads: 

In the spring of 1628, the Witchfinder of Wessex finds himself a true Witch. As Bess Hawksmith watches her mother swing from the Hanging Tree she knows that only one man can save her from the same fate: the Warlock Gideon Masters. Secluded at his cottage in the woods, Gideon instructs Bess in the Craft, awakening formidable powers and making her immortal. She couldn’t have foreseen that even now, centuries later, he will be hunting her across time, determined to claim payment for saving her life. 

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life. Her solitude abruptly ends when a teenage girl named Tegan starts hanging around. Against her instincts, Elizabeth teaches Tegan the ways of the Hedge Witch, in the process awakening memories—and demons—long thought forgotten. 

Part historical romance, part modern fantasy, The Witch’s Daughter is a fresh, compelling take on the magical, yet dangerous world of witches. Readers will long remember the fiercely independent heroine who survives plagues, wars, and the heartbreak of immortality to stay true to herself, and protect the protégé she comes to love.


I was suckered into this book, despite the negative reviews, because the description sounded interesting and the cover caught my eye. Ugh, I should have listened to the reviews. Or, I wish the reviews had been more detailed as to why people didn’t like the book. I’m going to try to be detailed.

First things first, don’t believe that description. It’s sort of accurate, kinda, but it gave me the complete wrong impression. I was expecting to start out with her mother dead and then follow her as she learned magic from a sexy bad boy warlock. They’d have a falling out of some sort and she would start running and he’d chase her through the centuries. Sounds good, right? Yeah, that’s so not what happens.

It takes forever for her mother to die and then we don’t watch Bess learn anything. All of her magic lessons are disappointingly glossed over. The part before her mother dies isn’t so bad, though it is a lot longer than I was expecting. You learn about Bess and her family living in the dark ages (literally) and dealing with plague and poverty. Ok historical fiction, but nothing that particularly stood out for me. I really tried to work up sympathy for Bess, but I never connected with any of the characters well enough to feel more than an objective recognition of her horrible situation. 

The two other historical sections interested me less and had fewer historical details. I don’t really understand why those two parts of her life were highlighted. What was so special about them? The scenes mentioned but never shown sounded more interesting than the ones that were actually described. These flashbacks were all written in the third person. I felt very disconnected to the main character. I think this would have worked better for me if it had been written in the first person.

These historical flashbacks alternate with journal entries written by Bess in modern times. She talks about her growing relationship with Tegan. Tegan annoyed me. She didn’t feel like a genuine teenager. Instead she felt more like an adult’s forced and over the top attempt at sounding like a teenager. I also thought Bess was especially boring and pathetic in these parts. She was like a shadow of a person. All of her talk about not getting close to anyone kind of contradicted all of her flashbacks, too.

Bess was a likable enough character in the beginning. As the story went on though, I found myself getting more and more frustrated with her. She turned into the type of character I spend most of my time screaming at and wishing she’d stop being such an idiot. In the final 100 pages of the book I just wanted Gideon to kill everyone, Bess included.

There was one scene in the final flashback where I said to myself, “If she does X, I swear I’m not going to finish this book.” It was such a stupid thing that was completely unnecessary. Well, she did it, but I did finish the book. I had only about 50 pages more to go. I couldn’t stand not finishing the book after all that, so I skimmed the rest.

And the promised romance? Ugh, no. The warlock is creepy. Not creepy like a good ghost story, but creepy like a rapist. Which is what he is. Bess observes him raping a girl in a crude and unnecessary scene. This should have been a big warning for her, and while she is repulsed, a few chapters later she’s lusting after him herself. Um, yeah, I totally wasn’t getting on board with that.

Then there’s another creepy Satan/demon/ew sex scene that leads to Bess running from Gideon. Ok, so rape didn’t scare her off but demon Satan sex did it? Whatever. Then Bess is raped in a really unnecessary and awkward scene. Did you see anything about this in the blurb? Because I sure didn’t! All of these creepy sex scenes just served to remind me why I prefer reading YA fiction even though I’m no longer a YA myself. Adults look at me strangely for reading “below my age” but, uh, multiple rape scenes and creepy Satan sex? I’ll stick with my YA “eccentricities” thank you very much.

There are more reasons I didn’t like this book, but do you really need any more? I don't like to so thoroughly pan a book, but I think my negative experience here is in large part because this isn't my genre. I prefer young adult books to adult books. I don't mind reading about sex in a book, but the way it was done here isn't my thing. I also think my inaccurate expectations may have affected my enjoyment. There's also a lot of the "rah rah female sisterhood" thing going on here, and I don't tend to like that.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

This book satisfies the following challenges: 


    1. Thanks for the detailed reasons; based on the summary, it does look like it could be interesting but after reading your review, I shall steer clear.

    2. Wow...this one sounds really super disturbing. I'm not sure if I would have been tempted to read it based on the synopsis but I'm certainly not now!

    3. Oh, and glad to hear you're enjoying my "Find the Gap" posts! It's been interesting seeing what areas everyone would like to see better covered in YA :)

    4. Lol, I totally would have read the story if it was based on your first impression. Too bad it wasn't!

    5. Sorry this one didn't read well for you. I thought the cover looked cool, but after reading your review I think I'll pass. It doesn't sound like my kind of read either.

      Andrea @ Reading Lark

    6. So disappointing. The premise sounds fabulous too. I really like how you did this negative review. You didn't hold back, but you didn't get personal or unreasonably trash the book. Great job!

    7. I was actually reading about this one just a few days ago on Amazon, and I thought it sounded interesting! However, after reading your review, I'll be giving it a miss. Lucky escape, I think!

    8. HAAHAHAHAHH!!!!!!!!

      I was laughing the entire time I read this!! "If she does X then I'm not gonna finish" ha!!

      When I saw that you gave it such a low rating, I had to know why!! Satan sex what?! Omg, I'm sorry you read this book. The cover is deceiving I definitely would've tried to read it!

    9. Wow. Haha. So those early reviews weren't kidding. This book was pretty bad. XD. Now after your review I think I'm gonna stay away. Heh.

    10. Wow, thanks for your honest review. You know what's funny, reading really negative reviews sometimes makes me want to read the book more, so I can see for myself if it's as terrible as they say!
      The cover is stunning. Too bad the plot didn't whip along as fast as you hoped. And yeah... reading creepy sex scenes is one major reason I usually avoid adult fiction. If it's not people raping each other, it's bored and unhappy middle-agers just kinda going through the motions. Ugh! Who needs to read about that!

    11. I'm not sure I would enjoy that kind of book either. I thought that before you really got to mentioning that you didn't enjoy it.

      PS I stole your button for my sidebar :D

    12. Bookworm, You’re welcome. I like the story I made up in my head based on the summary better than the one I read. :P

      Danya, The really disturbing scenes were short and mostly in the beginning, but the whole book kind of gave me the wiggins.

      A Canadian Girl. I know, right? I want to read that story!

      Andrea, I was drawn to it because of the cover, too.

      Alison, Oh I’m so glad you said that! I was worried I was being too harsh or mean, but I also didn’t want to sugar coat things. Thank you!

      Leanna, Well…there are more positive reviews on Amazon, so not everyone shared my opinion. Looking at the reviewers who liked it, I think they tended to be adults who enjoy reading adult fiction, so maybe that’s why?

      Lazy Girl, :D It really was such an unnecessary thing. If she did this one thing, she would make her situation a bazillion times worse. And then she does it. But the really annoying thing was it was completely unnecessary! She had at least three other options that would have worked just as well and wouldn’t have brought on the bad consequence. I just wanted to smack her in the head. At that point she just deserved whatever was coming to her and became a Too Stupid to Live character.

      Need Tea, Yes, I really, really should have listened to them! This is the second time I haven’t listened to reviewers panning a book. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson.

      Madigan, I agree! Sometimes I just really want to see for myself. The cover is really beautiful. I love the striped dress and her witchy shoes. Yes! I know just what you mean about the unhappy going through the motions sex. I don’t know why anyone would enjoy reading that.

      The Slowest Bookworm, Thanks so much! :)

    13. Ugh! And I really wanted to read this one. I've been seeing it everywhere and for whatever reason, I really like the cover. Doesn't sound like anything I'd like to read at all. I was just commenting on another blog about how having a likable main character is pretty important to me liking the book.

    14. Aw, well if the plot still sounds good to you please don't write it off completely based on my experience! Some reviewers loved it and the main character. I really like the cover too.

    15. Well then. Haven't heard a lot about this one so I will have no problem just skipping it. It was still pretty entertaining reading your detailed thoughts about why you didn't like this book though :) I'm surprised this wasn't one of your DNF books.

    16. Ugh, it should have been a DNF. Usually I'm so ruthless about DNF-ing books too. I didn't realize how far along I was and the book did start out better. Then it just kept getting worse and worse.

    17. I am so not like you. I just cannot for the life of me bring myself to stop reading a book that I've started even if I hate it.

    18. I used to be like that. I heard someone lay out the math of how many books a person would likely be able to read in their lifetime, and I realized my TBR is probably longer than I'll be able to read in a lifetime so I'd better not waste time on books I'm not enjoying!

    19. I'm like Aylee and have such a hard time not finishing books. Instead I just skim them to the end.

      Ugh. Rape scenes with no storytelling value are as bad as torture porn in the movies. Barf.

    20. I skimmed the end of this one, but I don't think I'm going to do that again. I did have some funny commentary running through my head though (oh look, Bess is acting stupidly again! Oh no Bess, sorry, I just don't care that you're sad now. Oh hey Bess! You finally figured it out!)

      Yes, EXACTLY. Your analogy is spot on. I was reading it and wondering what was the point. I think that was another one of the "See, men are sooo evil" scenes.

    21. I wanted to read this one too but I have read so many reviews that have let me know it is not my genre... Thanks for your honesty!

    22. Natalie, You're welcome! Even if a book sounds good, if it's not my genre then I just don't tend to like it.

    23. I love witches. The Witch of Blackbird Pond was one of my favorites growing up and I have always found the Salem witch trials fascinating. But I don't think I could find anything interesting in this book after what I just read. Thanks for suffering through the book so I didn't have to. I'm sure others thank you for that sacrifice as well!


    24. Heather, I always meant to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond but I somehow missed it. I should read it now for one of my tween reviews. LOL! You made me feel a million times better for having read this book. Like I was doing a service and protecting other readers :P Thank you!

    25. I just want to thank you for your 'red alert'. Some adult topics I have a hard time reading, so I stick to young adult fiction. It's so hard to find reviews that don't give away the story before they tell you it's inappropriate. I appreciate yours separated from your actual review. Thank you!


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