Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, 424 pages
Maggie Blair flees her home after she is charged with witchcraft and sentenced to death. Fleeing to her uncle’s home, she finds some peace and security until the religious persecution of the time lands her uncle in jail and threatens to destroy her new life. Scared but determined, Maggie travels to Edinburgh to try to free her uncle and on the way finds the possibility for a new life for herself.
Set in seventeenth-century Scotland, The Betrayal of Maggie Blair successfully captures the historical era. She brings to light the struggle with changes at that time, particularly between the old views of Paganism with new views of Christianity as well political conflicts between England and Scotland. Using Maggie and her family as the focal point, Laird ably shows the injustices that frequently happened during that time, including witch trials, religious persecution and deplorable punishments and prison standards. Less successful is her portrayal of the characters, which are broadly written and, with the exception of Maggie, show little growth throughout the novel. Maggie’s fainting and crying spells also become old fairly quickly. However, the book is still entertaining and will likely be enjoyed by a teen audience.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern