Saturday, April 23, 2011

Book Review: The Betrayal of Maggie Blair, by Elizabeth Laird

I wouldn’t have wanted to live in the time period I learned about in The Betrayal of Maggie Blair. We’re talking seventeenth century Scotland. And we’re not talking about royalty; we’re talking about very poor people who struggle every day just to survive.

Maggie is an orphan who is living with her grandmother on a very isolated island off the coast of Scotland. As I said, most of Maggie’s existence involves daily hard work trying to keep food on the table. Granny is a superstitious, cranky old woman who doesn’t get along well with their neighbors, and this is what starts all the trouble for Maggie. Granny is accused of witchcraft, and Maggie, by her association, is also thrown into prison with her. 

Maggie escapes, and begins an adventure that will carry her all across Scotland. She ends up with her Uncle Blair and his family—and what a difference from Granny. These are very devout Covenanters-Presbyterians, who defy the English government to practice their religion. So, at first Maggie thought she had finally found safety and security, but because of this religious zeal, her uncle is thrown into prison and Maggie is once again struggling for survival.

Maggie is a typical 16-year-old.  She’s malleable – she goes from chanting curses and spells to reading the bible and praying to God. I didn’t feel that she was without conviction – well I guess she was, but I don’t blame her for that – try to remember what it’s like to be sixteen. Maggie is brave and daring, although she doesn’t realize it.  The adventures she survives throughout this book give her heroic status, and I think teens will enjoy rooting for this plucky character.

The rest of Laird’s characters are worth knowing too.  Tam, Maggie’s rescuer, is a somewhat elusive character, but this is intentional, and you can’t help but admire him. Maggie’s cousins and aunt and uncle give us a very clear picture of what it was like to be a family driven only by their convictions to God.  Annie is a perfectly snotty, evil character and is easy to hate.

The Scottish setting is described, but didn’t really come alive for me. There is a map at the beginning that helps, but reading on a Kindle, I didn’t tend to flip back as often as I would have with a printed book.

The book is a bit long for teens, but fans of historical fiction, with an admirable teen heroin that gets stronger and stronger throughout the book will find this worth the time. It isn’t action-packed, but the story moves at a steady pace, and I didn’t lose interest.
Published by Houghton Mifflin, April 18, 2011
eBook Copy obtained from NetGalley
432 pages (qualifies for my 350 Page Book Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5

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  1. This looks like I good book! I love Historical Fiction, and I love reading about stuff like this!

    Thanks for the review!

  2. That sounds really good. I think there's a bit of a lack of well written historical fiction for teens, and this one fills the spot nicely.

  3. I love the cover of this one. I will add it to my TBR list for a rainy day.

    Andrea @ Reading Lark

  4. I got to read this one as an ARC a while back and really enjoyed it. It's not really the typical YA read, even for historical fiction, but it was pretty fascinating and Maggie is a great character. I wouldn't want to live in seventeenth century Scotland either!! Anyway, great review. :)

  5. I haven't ever heard of this one before! I love a good historical fictional novel..especially a YA one! It sounds refreshingly different! Thanks for this wonderful review!

  6. I got this one on net galley yesterday so I'm looking forward to reading it on my kindle. I love historical fiction so I hope I like it. Thanks for the great review :)

  7. This sounds fantastic. Like Jamie, I am down for a good historical fiction YA novel.

    I think the religion aspect seems interesting. I remember being 16 and not knowing a whole lot about God, and going to church but doing sinful things the next day. I mean, I'm 23 and still not all that sure about religion. Sounds like I'd relate to Maggie.

    Great review, Annette!


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