The publisher’s summary adequately describes the premise of this novel, the first foray of C.C. Finlay/Charles Coleman Finlay into historical fantasy. (Prior to this, Mr. Finlay was perhaps best known for his fantasy novel The Prodigal Troll, as well as the gritty, sword-against-sorcery tales of Vertir and Kuikan that graced the pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction.)
Colonial America has been, at least to my knowledge, an under-used setting for speculative fiction, and The Patriot Witch steps nicely into that gap. The first six chapters develop rather slowly, as the hero, Proctor Brown, tries to make sense both of the violence at Lexington and Concord and his own natural talent for magic. But once other ‘witches’ appear in Chapter 7, they energize the plot, and pages begin to turn themselves. The novel builds to a satisfying conclusion, but many plot-threads, and the fate of this (alternate) America, remain unresolved. If anything, with the introduction of the characters and magic system complete, the next two novels in the trilogy (A Spell for the Revolution and The Demon Redcoat) should be able to move at an even more engaging pace.
One potential concern is whether Proctor will grow into a fascinating enough character to bear the trilogy’s full weight. In this book, he begins as a rather stereotypical fantasy farm boy/youth: strong, moral, and courageous but not overly intelligent or witty, a tad impulsive and stubborn, and burdened by a heritage he doesn’t fully understand. (Every so often, especially when he was in the company of the other, female witches and talk of “the Light” was in the air, I feared someone would name him The Dragon Reborn.) That is, he’s simply not a distinctive character, but as the story progresses, there are flashes that he could become one.
Another minor concern is a handful of typographical errors (the most amusing of which, on p. 132, describes how someone “filled her rocks with pockets”). But overall, this is a solidly written book that I recommend as a new purchase — it’s being released exclusively as a mass-market paperback — for fans of post-medieval or non-European fantasy and as a library loan for fans of fantasy in general. Because of the book’s relative cleanliness and historical context, it may also appeal to readers of Christian fantasy. Four smoking musket balls.
Traitor to the Crown — (2009) Publisher: The year is 1775. On the surface, Proctor Brown appears to be an ordinary young man working the family farm in New England. He is a minuteman, a member of the local militia, determined to defend the rights of the colonies. Yet Proctor is so much more. Magic is in his blood, a dark secret passed down from generation to generation. But Proctor’s mother has taught him to hide his talents, lest he be labeled a witch and find himself dangling at the end of a rope. A chance encounter with an arrogant British officer bearing magic of his own catapults Proctor out of his comfortable existence and into the adventure of a lifetime, as resistance sparks rebellion and rebellion becomes revolution. Now, even as he fights alongside his fellow patriots from Lexington to Bunker Hill, Proctor finds himself enmeshed in a war of a different sort–a secret war of magic against magic, witch against witch, with the stakes not only the independence of a young nation but the future of humanity itself.