by Jessica Spotswood
Blessed with a gift...cursed with a secret.
Everybody knows 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.
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word . . . especially after she finds her mother's diary, uncovering 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.
If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood - not even from each other.
I finished reading this book the other night. I was surprised by how much I like this one! It wasn't about witchcraft like, oh, Sweep or The Craft are. There was magic, sure, but it was more like Harry Potter type magic. And it's not even witchy elements that sucked me in. It was the love story, which was *not* what I was looking for when I bought the book.
Set in 1896 in fictional New London, it took me a while to realize this was not historical fiction. There are elements from history like witch trials and witch hunts, and the rules of society being so much different than today, but there are also things like the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood. The Sisters could be thought of sort of like nuns, but the Brothers were like Nazi dictator witch police and they ruled the land. When girls turned 17, they to "announce their intention" before everyone in church, and their options were simple: get married or join the Sisters. If no one had proposed to you by the time of your Intention Ceremony, not to worry, the Brothers would fix you up with someone. And if you were betrothed but the Brothers felt it was not a good match, well, they would find you someone more appropriate. How nice of them! Wow.
Cate is the main character, and she is a few months shy of her 17th birthday as this story begins. She's not put much thought into marriage but knows she does not want to join the Sisterhood. She has her hands full just taking care of younger sisters and hiding their secret (that they're witches). To help keep their secret they've pretty much kept to themselves at their grand country home. But people are talking now, and a meddling neighbor insists the girls need a governess since they have no mother to guide them, especially now when Cate and younger sister Maura should be coming into society and looking for husbands.
Then a mysterious letter is delivered and Cate's world is shaken up even more. Now she has to keep more secrets while trying to find answers, plus the added pressure of marriage vs. Sisterhood . . . and even if she'd wanted to marry, there have been no gentlemen calling. That is until her childhood best friend Paul returns to town after years away at school, and wants to marry her. It seems like an obvious solution to her problem. He has money, and a future laid out before him. He's handsome and charming and acceptable in the community. They've known each other forever, and she does love him, at least as a friend. And he wants to marry her! Oh, and he wants to take her away to the big city. Another problem to add to Cate's stack of stresses. How will she take care of her sisters and keep the family secret if she is days away from them?
Then there is Finn, who Cate has also known for years but never really paid much attention to. Her father has done him a favor by giving him a job on their farm. Cate soon finds herself falling for him, but he has nothing to offer her. He is poor. His family is of lower status than the Cahill's, and the Brotherhood are already keeping an eye on them. It's rather heartbreaking when Finn finally admits his feelings for Cate but also makes it clear he has nothing to offer and they can't be married.
Cate's Intention Ceremony is now only weeks away. What will she do?
This book kept a fairly quick pace and kept to the point. I hate it when dialogue or events are over-dramatic or drawn out with interruptions and delays, and this book didn't have that. (Well, one minor incident but it was explained soon enough and not left for the next book.) At first I wasn't really liking Cate, thought she was too hung up certain things and that got a bit old. She started to grow on my though and while she's still not my favorite character, I did like her more by the end of the book. The Paul-Cate-Finn love triangle was well done, and I am totally Team Finn. It was so sad that the rules of society were pretty much the only thing keeping Cate and Finn apart. I'm really looking forward the the next book(s) because even though Cate announces her intention at the end of this first book, I'm quite certain this love triangle is far from over.
I would put this book somewhere in the middle between serious reading and fluff, leaning slightly more towards fluff. I would have liked to see more 'serious' witchcraft, or have them learning more about it instead of simply casting silly spells like they were at Hogwarts. But even so, this book caught my be surprise and I really hate that we have to wait until who knows when for the next one. I'm curious now about other books this author has written, if any. I'll need to check.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts, and even discuss the story!
I leave you with this Born Wicked 'book trailer.' Enjoy!
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