February 25, 2011

The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird

Release Date: April 18, 2011
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Pages: 360
Review Source: eARC from NetGalley for honest review

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
In seventeenth-century Scotland, saying the wrong thing can lead to banishment—or worse. Accused of being a witch, sixteen-year-old Maggie Blair is sentenced to be hanged. She escapes, but instead of finding shelter with her principled, patriotic uncle, she brings disaster to his door.

Betrayed by one of her own accusers, Maggie must try to save her uncle and his family from the king’s men, even if she has to risk her own life in the process.

Originally published in the UK, this book has a powerful blend of heart-stopping action and thought-provoking themes.

My Thoughts:
This was an interesting book, and I felt like it told two separate stories. The first of these stories is Maggie’s brush with death as she gets accused of being a witch, and the second is Maggie’s time with her family and journeying to save her uncle. I’d like to mention early on that this was a very different book from what I expected, and from reading other reviews, I see that many others have felt the same way. I went in expecting a borderline paranormal story about Maggie as a witch (or an accused witch, at least) fighting off persecution, and some magical happenings regarding this, but instead... I found myself reading a book that could definitely be labeled as Christian historical fiction, as the book becomes a story mostly about faith and politics, while also telling a very quiet survival story.

It was tough to read this book at times. It’s horrible to be reminded of what societies have done, and continue to do, to their outcasts: how they have been scapegoats throughout history. It was also terrible to read about the suffering of the Covenenters because of their religion. The novel poses many interesting questions about principle. Would you give up your life for your faith? Would you choose faith over family, even? There are a lot of tough decisions that get made in this book. The book also features a lot of description and narration of Maggie’s thoughts, which usually isn’t my thing, but I found her inner monologue quite easy to read and very interesting. Maggie is quite naive and inexperienced, but she knows it. She’s fearful, yet when it comes down to it she is brave, and does what has to be done.

The afterword of the book made the whole thing even more interesting, I thought. It was clear that the novel was based on Scottish religious history, but in the afterword we learn that it is also a fictionalized account of the author’s own ancestors. Like I’ve mentioned previously, real historical figures in a novel always make a book more intriguing to me.

Though this was a very different novel from what I expected, I definitely enjoyed reading it. I only wish that the ending was a bit more clear, and that we could know what Maggie decided to do. I wasn’t sure if it was very realistic that Maggie would be left to her own devices, making all of her own decisions back in 17th Century. Either way, I enjoyed this look at historical Scotland, and I found Maggie to be a strong, relateable main character who, like many other people, grapples with faith and questions of right and wrong.


Find The Betrayal of Maggie Blair by Elizabeth Laird on Goodreads, Book Depository, & Amazon.ca


  1. Wow, I'm so glad I read your review Ashley, I definitely thought the same about this one - that it would be about persecution and would have a little paranormal twist to it so I'm glad to know that's not really the case ahead of time. Good to know too that despite it being so different, it's still a great read!

  2. So, I haven't read any reviews at all yet for The Betrayal of Maggie Blair, but once you typed that description of it being a 'quiet survival story' that has me desperately wanting to read this book. I really like books that are seen as 'quiet' or subtle, or not in your face. Also, historical fiction based on real people is so much more interesting, I think. I know after I read, I usually hop on to wikipedia to find out more about the real person.

  3. Awesome review, Ashley! I haven't seen any reviews for this one, but this was one of the books I featured on a WoW once that I've been just dying to read. I love that it sounds like a quiet, internal struggle in the midst of an ongoing outward one. Fabulous thoughts!

  4. I have not read reviews for this one either. But from the synopsis I thought the same as you that it was more about witch trials.
    Intrigued to read it though as I am interested in historical fiction and survival stories.
    Thanks for your thoughtful review!

  5. Thanks so much for the review Ashley! I haven't been hearing too much about this novel, so reading your review definitely helps. It's interesting to see that the novel deals with faith and politics mostly when it's made out to be something that could be more paranormal-based. I guess it's more historical fiction in that case then... :)

  6. I like the setting on this book, it's what is really attracting me to the book because it seems very different from a lot of the YA books I've been reading.

  7. I really like the summary and cover of this book. I have had it on my tbr/wish list ever since reading the summary for the first time.

    Thank you so much for your review. I really like books that have something about the witch trials in them. I'm sad, though, that there isn't a whole bunch of it in there like we thought.

  8. Great informative review Ashley :)
    I had not heard of this one before, and it definitely sounds interesting...some parallels to something I've read recently - The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane - which was written by a women who is descended from two of the women accused in the Salem witch trials.
    I see that this one is published by HM Books for Children..from the description it sounds like more of an adult novel...would you say at least an older YA audience?

  9. I guess it depends... the subject matter might seem heavy to some people, so older teens might find it more interesting, but there's nothing particularly mature about it, either language/content wise. It's definitely a good crossover novel, though.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment; I appreciate each one!


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