Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood surprised me. It was a recomendation, and I try to read most books people tell me about, but I’ll admit I was dubious of this one. I was wrong to doubt it.
Genre: witchy paranormal YA with some romance and an alternate historical setting
Everybody thinks Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave. Then Cate finds her mother’s diary, and uncovers a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. But if what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe–not even from each other.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a quick read–it took me a day. The plot is enticing and fast-paced.
I love the world building Spotswood employed. The story is set in New England at the turn of the 20th century, but it is an alternate world. Witches ruled for hundreds of years, until the Brotherhood massacred them and took over. Today, the Brotherhood rules with an iron fist, preaching that “womanly frailty” is the cause of sin and that witchcraft is the ultimate transgression. Girls are carted off to prison camps for invisible infractions.
It took me a little while to figure out the setting of the book, but even without knowing exactly the time/place of the story, the Brotherhood’s rule and its effects on the Cahill sisters’ lives is powerful. The bigotry and subjugation of women had me clenching my fists. I liked that Spotswood didn’t do what many authors do and create a world where only the tyrant exists; she allows that the Brothers only rule over part of America and England. The citizens of the Brotherhood’s lands know that there are other empires out there that treat women and witches fairly. That provided an interesting juxtaposition that drove parts of the story along.
The dynamic between the three Cahill sisters was fascinating. The main character, Cate, is the oldest sister, charged with protecting her two younger siblings by their mother on her death bed. However, she is not the most skilled sister at working magic; in fact, she shuns it for fear of the Brotherhood. Her need to keep her sisters safe and make good on her promise to their late mother sparks resentment from the other two sisters. When the governess is introduced, the dynamic shifts again, as a different authority figure appears. As you learn the details of the prophecy, the rifts between the three become even more dire. Spotswood handled the balancing of three powerful, individual characters well, and her protagonist’s reactions to her siblings’ rebellions.
The romance was sweet. Though there is a love triangle, it was obvious to me which one she would go for. Even with that, the way it unfolded was fun to read.
The ending of the book was heart-wrenching and I can’t wait to read the next book, Star Cursed. Unfortunately, I have to wait until the end of this week, because I’m on vacation and I can’t get the book until I’m home.