Review Blog

Jul 26 2019

The last Balfour by Cait Duggan

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Harper Collins 2019. ISBN: 9781460757017.
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Cait Duggan's first novel follows the witch hunt phenomenon of 19th century Scotland. With rich imagery and a cast of interesting characters, this novel is a welcome escape from reality. Incorporating spells and songs from historical texts as well as charms and pagan traditions, Duggan pays homage to the healers of old and those who were persecuted in the Scottish witch trials.
Iona is only fourteen when her aunt Grizzle is convicted of being a witch and burned at the stake. Her powers have not yet come in yet her sister is unconcerned with the danger they are both facing. Blinded by her love for her husband, Gregor, Ishbel refuses to act until it's too late. Under her aunt's instructions, Iona must set off through the forest for Edinburgh with little more than her wits and a family jewel. With a witch-finder in hot pursuit she must let go of all that is dear to her, even the neighbour's boy, Daziel, who has returned from his studies to help her. Making new friends along the way, Iona must come into her magic and gather all of her courage in order to survive. But will that be enough?
The novel explores Iona and Ishbel's strenuous relationship following Ishbel's marriage and subsequent infatuation with someone her sister cannot stand. Dealing with issues of trust, secrecy, betrayal, and the power of intent, The last Balfour tells us to be careful who to trust and why.
Highly recommended to young people twelve and up, particularly those interested in Scottish history, witchcraft, and the supernatural. Teacher's notes are available.
Kayla Gaskell

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