Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure – as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them. Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it’s Matthew’s brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her. Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex’s entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex’s arms to begin a new life in the wilderness. How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together?
Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review
I definitely thought I was at a disadvantage when reading this book by not realising it was the sixth in the series, but Belfrage writes in such a way that if you pay close attention you do get told the key moments in their story and past that you have missed. By piecing together references and casual remarks the story and events of the previous books are made clear. Granted this isn’t in any detailed or complicated way, but it is enough, enabling you to enjoy and understand the current one.
Belfrage works it into the story seamlessly as well and while the references are often small and fleeting, they are enough to help you work out what has happened in the past, enabling you to understand how the events and situations in the current book came to be. As a result, even if you haven’t read the others, you still get intensely involved in the story and being so far into the series it could almost be a novel on its own, with only a more detailed back story required. As a continuation on the other hand, I can see it as a great addition to the saga, continuing the story of Alex and her family with real situations, events, continuity, and consequences.
Being the sixth book, there is a sense of it being another chapter in the Graham family saga rather than one that introduces anything new. A lot assumedly has been established in the earlier books and there is an investment in the family already. However even though it was my first introduction, by the end of the book I too was invested in the family, with the brief catch up to their past and the nature and honest reality of their lives, it is hard not to get involved.
There are great, complicated, and detailed characters that bring this story to life. Each character has their own story to tell and their own life to lead but they are all connected together so well. Belfrage manages to be detailed but not overbearing with information and despite the numerous characters, there is no confusion and it is fairly easy to keep track of who everyone is and what their role is.
Despite being from the future, by the time the sixth book occurs, Alex has spent many decades in the past and has established a life there. This means that there is a lot of focus on the current life, rather than her former, though there are occasional references and mentions about her life from the 21st century. Few people are privy to her secret, and it is great to see how those in the know cover when an issue arises and learn how she has hidden it so well. There is a fascination about each of these characters, not just Alex and her secret, and I got immense pleasure from reading about them and seeing their struggles and joyous moments.
The conflicts and dramas reflect the era but there are many similarities to the present day as well, reflecting what has changed and what has stayed the same. Seeing the Graham family live and survive without any of the modern comforts was part of the enjoyment and you realise just how clever and innovative the early settlers were. It also gives credit to Alex who is able to use her modern knowledge and adapt it to the different era successfully.
From the beginning of the book there is a feeling of something big developing and it grows steadily, snowballing to a gripping end through a narrative that is engaging, fast-paced, and at times emotional for numerous reasons. There are shocks and harsh realities, and some things that are very adult, brutal, and violent, something that may not appeal to everyone, but it is not without purpose and all of varying degrees. The characters are tough though and you see their strength and determination shine through with every obstacle that is thrown at them, no matter the size or severity. I don’t think you need to have been invested in these characters for five books beforehand to understand who they are, Belfrage demonstrates their strength and vulnerability so well, whether it is for simple things, the brutal, or the heartbreaking.
There is also a beautiful mixture of the present and the past, and even though Alex has become accustomed to her new life, there is still evidence of the old life shining through, making her stand out amongst the other characters. This is another reason to return to the beginning of the series, to see the gradual adjustment to this different life.
The historical aspects are well researched, and while I know little of American history, especially colonial times, there are minute details that bring this story together and add realism to the time travelling aspect. With so much happening there is never any real certainty of what will happen next, and with so many characters, each with their own troubles it means that surprises are always in store.
Belfrage has created a fascinating and captivating story filled with characters that you come to know, admire, and love. It is definitely a story that makes me want to go back to the start of the series and be introduced to Alex from the very beginning. From what is hinted at and mentioned in this book it is certainly a unique and mysterious journey but with an added danger as well, and one that is never truly forgotten.