Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

When I try to describe Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood (Penguin - Putnam Juvenile), I keep saying not quite. Not quite the suppressive teenage marriage/fertility fantasy that's been plaguing the shelves. Not quite the average love triangle. Not quite.

It's about 1900, and the Brotherhood--an organization that one is expected to respect, if not join, if you're male--keeps everyone safe, especially the women. They run the schools and the church. They make sure you get married or join the Sisterhood as soon as you're old enough. And they have...other duties.

Cate and her sisters, Maura and Tess, have managed to stay out of the way of the Brotherhood, mostly. They rattle around in a big old house, emptier since their mother died. When their father goes away and leaves them with a governess, it becomes much harder to hide their terrible, criminal secret: the three sisters are witches. Cate must marry, soon, or go away to join the Sisterhood, but that will split the sisters up, and Cate's not sure that her sisters will be safe without her; a hint or a rumor could have them sent to an institution or a prison ship.

It seems like salvation has arrived in the form of an old friend who's loved Cate for years--but her heart is going in a different direction. Then she discovers that she and her sisters might be part of a prophecy, and that there are many, many witches, some who would use the girls for their own ends. How much will Cate--how much can Cate--sacrifice, and what if all of her options leave someone she cares about heartbroken?

I really enjoyed Born Wicked. I imagine that some readers will see it as particularly feminist, and I don't think that's bad; Cate learns that she most wants to be the one in charge of herself, and that such a situation is good for all people. I just took a quick look around at some other reviews and see that some readers didn't like that aspect so much, and I find that interesting, not to mention a refreshing change from bleak futures where we've reverted to very, very traditional roles with no hope for change.

This book is nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils. I reviewed a copy that I owned.

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