As Witch Child ends so Sorceress begins. Alison Ellman is still searching for information about the wonderful Mary Newbury, she has a diary and some scattered information about other people in Mary’s life, but Mary has disappeared into the forests and Alison has no way of following her.
But when she meets Agnes Herne, Alison encounters the person who is going to tell her all about Mary’s life after she leaves Beulah. Agnes is a descendent of Mary’s and has a special skill which allows her to be in touch with Mary in the spirit world.
And Mary has a story to tell. A story of love and friendship, sadness and loss. A story that takes her across the new world in an epic search for a home. We fell under the spell of Mary in Witch Child and now at last we find out what happened to her after her ill-fated time in Beulah. Just as Mary’s story has to be told to Agnes it has to be read by us for it is passionate, compelling and utterly wonderful.
Celia Rees’s Sorceress is the bewitching sequel to Witch Child, which was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2001. In the first novel, a young English girl called Mary flees 17th-century England when her grandmother is hung, accused of being a witch. She sails across the seas to America where she begins a new life with a community of Puritans. But as the history books show, this was no safe place for a young witch, good or bad, and when Mary’s past is exposed she is cast out into the wilderness. Her diary is abandoned and the reader is left not knowing how Mary’s story ends but wanting more.
Not one to disappoint fans, Rees returns with a sequel. In Part II, the story is taken over by a young modern-day historian called Alison Ellman and a Native American Indian called Agnes, who realises that there is a spiritual link between herself and the long-dead English girl. The pair track down the truth of what happened to Mary, each in their own way. But it is through Agnes that Mary’s story truly unfolds as the girl goes on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. In a trance-like state, she becomes Mary. We learn of her marriage to the Indian warrior Jaybird, their children and the suffering of her people when war comes. Rees combines superb storytelling with factual history to enchanting effect, leaving you captivated until the very last page. —Nicola Perry