Devil’s Playground by Heather Eagar
Travel back in time with Devil’s Playground – to Salem, Massachusetts during a very bad period. When Elizabeth and her family are caught up in the witch-hunting spree, she’s got to figure out a way to protect the ones she loves and also save Salem before it burns to the ground.
FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Publisher’s Description: Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Winters may be a witch, but she doesn’t know the first thing about magic—unless you count accidental bouts of spontaneous combustion. Elizabeth’s father, a wizard himself, has forbidden the use of her powers for her own protection, but when accusations of witchcraft start flying through Salem Village, she wishes she was more prepared.
Despite her lack of magical knowledge, Elizabeth appoints herself to save innocent women from the demise the village has in store for them. Elizabeth finds, however, that she is not the hero Salem needs her to be.
She meant to save them. She cursed them instead.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Luna Lovebooks says…
What I liked: I have always been partial to witches and to Salem. I find them fascinating for some reason. Having personally studied a little on the subject matter I love how, in the beginning, the author blends the fiction with the hysteria that many scholars believe sparked the witch hunts. While there are a few places where readers can easily guess what is coming next, there are still plenty of twists that kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting to read more. But my favorite part of this book was the character Elizabeth herself. She is a hot mess! She is constantly trying to do good but, often ends up making situations worse through her lack of control in her magic. She is fiercely loyal to her family and the people of Salem themselves.
What I didn’t like: I try not to give too may spoilers away when I give my reviews so forgive me for this but Sebastian’s betrayal was one twist I was not happy about! Afterward, even though Elizabeth treats him coldly at first, I feel like she forgave him a little too quickly and bounced back to have a crush on the boy. I also didn’t like that the story didn’t quite match up with what most people have learned about the witch trails. At first it tows the line between the historical and the fiction, but then it crosses way over into fiction.
I give this 4 broomsticks.
Kat Mandu says…
Elizabeth is your typical teenager – sometimes moody, most of the time acting like she’s old enough to know everything, and yet young enough to get herself stuck in some nasty situations. She is very caring though, and yearns to do what she can to protect her family, especially her younger sister, Anna. Sometimes though, she trusts the wrong people, and that’s often what lands her in the position we find her in.
The town of Salem is plagued by the “witch” craze, led by Reverrend Parish and Judge Hathorne, who are so bent on blaming others (by accusing them of witchcraft and then executing them) for their problems, they have no issues sentencing innocent people to death. Elizabeth and her family enter the fray when Anna begins to have nightmares and “fits” – just like several other girls in the town. When a lot of accusations are thrown around, Elizabeth loses control of her powers a lot, and lands herself the attention of a boy she likes – the same boy who turns her into the judge because she won’t heal his father. When she’s held prisoner against her will, she accidentally casts a dark spell upon the town, causing the ten biblical plagues of Egypt to come destroy everything she’s ever known. Now she’s got to figure out how to reverse the spell before it’s too late – and all first born sons and daughters (which includes her witch father) she cares about perish.
This is a nice retelling of a historical period. The Salem Witch trials were my specialty in college history, so I’ve read a lot about this particular issue.
The story was inaccurate, yes, but that’s why we call it fiction. Personally, I liked this book a lot. It had a smooth flow, though repetitive at times, but everything is sharp, enabling you to visualize what’s happening very clearly. It’s a nice addition to the Salem fiction, though if I had to knock it down for everything, I’d have to critique it on the language and names. Though the writing was elegant and crisp, some of the dialogue was too…modern. I expected there to be a lot more formal, old-English tones. The name Levi also threw me off because it would have been incredibly rare to name a child that back then.
If you like this book…
…you might try The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, A Break With Charity by Ann Rinaldi, and Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill. Devil’s Playground is recommended for fans of Witch Child by Celia Rees, Origins (Sweep series) by Cate Tiernan, and A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan.