The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow (2006)

Description: Jennet Stearne’s father hangs witches for a living in Restoration England. But when this precocious child witnesses the horrifying death of her beloved Aunt Isobel, unjustly executed as a sorceress, she makes it her life’s mission to bring down the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act. A self-educated “natural philosopher,” Jennet is inspired in her quest by a singe sentence in a cryptic letter from Isaac Newton: It so happens that in the Investigations leading first to my Conjectures concerning Light and Later to my System of the world, I fell upon a pretty Proof that Wicked Spirits enjoy no essential Existence. Armed with nothing but the power of reason and her memory of Isobel’s love, Jennet cannot rest until she has put the last witchfinder out of business.

Abrim with picaresque adventures – escapades that carry Jennet from King William’s Britain to the fledgling American Colonies to an uncharted Caribbean island – our heroine’s search for justice entangles her variously in the machinations of the Salem Wtich Court, the customs of her Algonquin Indian captors, the designs of a West Indies pirate band, and the bedsheets of her brilliant lover, the young Ben Franklin. Finally, in a reckless and courageous ploy, Jennet arranges to go on trial herself for sorcery, the only way she can defeat the witchfinders now and forever. Rich in detail, rollicking in style, and endlessly engaging. The Last Witchfinder is a tour de force of historical fiction.

Review: To be honest, I am not sure yet if I like the book or not. This was recommended to me by a former coworker who thought I would enjoy it as I like to read about witchfinders and the witch trials. When I started it, I really got into the story. I got lost somewhere in the middle and put it down for a bit. What was interesting is that the narrator of the book is a book itself, the Philosophie Naturalis Principia Mathematica. There are breaks throughout the book where the narrator sort of buts in to give some back story. On the whole, it was interesting. However, many times it just seemed to bog the story down. Towards the end of the book, I gained my interest again to see what would happen. The ending was very well done. I think the author tried to tell too much history and not enough story. It really got a bit tedious in that middle section. Also, the way Ben Franklin was portrayed was a bit strange for me. Overall, an interesting read, but I fear you need to be really interested in the topic to even enjoy the book.

Score 2.5 out of 5

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About Michelle

I'm a Midwest girl who has landed herself on the east coast. I spend my days in libraryland. My passion/specialty is graphic novels, manga, and anime. For a few weekends of the year you will find me at an anime convention somewhere on the east coast.

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