The Betrayal of Maggie Blair
by Elizabeth Laird
Release Date: April 18, 2011
2011 Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
E-book Edition; Hardcover (432 Pages)
Genre: Young Adult Historical
Source: Review Copy from Net Galley
4 / 5 Stars
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.
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair was an amazingly rich blend of history and fiction and I enjoyed it tremendously. I thought the cover to this book was really beautiful, and really seemed to match the haunting prose of this richly written novel.
Maggie Blair was an interesting character and definitely a product of the times. Growing up with her grandmother, she is ostracized from the community and living on barely nothing. Her conditions growing up have made her insecure and uncertain, and it didn't help that her grandmother did not show her her the care and concern she craved and needed growing up. To be honest, I really wasn't sure what to think of Maggie at first, as she didn't really have a lot of confidence and sort of let herself be led along by her overbearing and frightening grandmother. When her grandmother was accused of being a witch, Maggie was renounced with her and arrested as well. Growing up with the hardships she had to endure had made Maggie's grandmother a hard and cold woman and she often reacted with threats and dominance over others. In a suspicious community such as this, it was inevitable that the cry of "Witch!" would eventually rear its ugly head. I had to admire both Maggie and her grandmother as they endured the endless humiliation of the trials and imprisonment and stoically faced their neighbours with their pride intact.
And Tam? I just loved this man. He was a scoundrel, a thief, a liar, and a drunkard, but his one redeeming quality was his loyalty and faithfulness and love for Maggie. He went out of his way to protect her and help keep her safe and because of him, Maggie was able to help her Uncle during his imprisonment and escape during her own imprisonment. His dodgy appearance was in complete contrast to Annie, who looked like an angel, but helped send Maggie to prison in the first place and caused her nothing but grief. You always have the one character in a novel you would happily toss into the sea and she was the one for me.
Ms. Laird describes seventeenth-century Scotland remarkably well. The rich and vivid descriptions and beautiful language makes it feel as if you were right there along with Maggie, experiencing everything she experienced, including her doubts and fears and concerns. That the story is loosely based on a true story makes it even more touching; everything Hugh Blair went through in this novel, the real Hugh Blair actually experienced. Other characters in the novel also derive from the author's actual historical background and I found this knowledge quite fascinating and intriguing. While I was somewhat familiar with the religious wars during this time period, this novel made me more interested in this time period and the plight of many people. The descriptions of the tortures and tragedies that some of these people faced is heartrending. The way of living, the people's attitudes and beliefs, the religious conflicts, the difficulties between the King and religious factions, were brought vividly to life and I devoured it.
I also really enjoyed the ending. While I would have liked to have seen some romance in Maggie's life, with everything she went through, and everything she still had to deal with, she certainly wasn't ready to deal with a romantic entanglement at this point in her life, and it wasn't due to lack of opportunity either. It is refreshing to read a novel where the story doesn't revolve around romantic entanglements, but deals with other areas of life.
The Betrayal of Maggie Blair was a fascinating blend of fiction and history. With a rich portrayal of the time period, and the various superstitions and fears that existed, Maggie's amazing story is brought to life as she is betrayed over and over again, but rises to become a confident and fascinating young woman. Learning to trust others as she was never taught to do, she teaches herself to find happiness in her life by searching her heart for what she truly seeks. I really enjoyed this novel because it was about Maggie and her fighting for what she believes in; it was also about her seeking peace and comfort throughout everything, questioning the beliefs of all those around her, and drawing her own conclusions about events. I am definitely looking forward to reading more by this author.