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a worthy follow-up/prequel to book one
on November 22, 2016
I fell in love with Heretic’s Daughter so much that I immediately started reading the prequel, even though the emotional heaviness of book one still weighed on my mind. The emotional tone of this second novel is lighter, even though the reader knows the ultimate tragic fate for Martha. The themes and storylines explored in this book are about building a relationship and new life, even if it's in a harsh world, rather than the sad end of a love and family.
Exploring Puritan life and how that society worked was the highlight of this book. Book one touched on it, of course, as it illustrated how that society’s make up contributed to the Salem witch trials and their aftermath. Yet, I felt this book got more in depth into the subject as we didn't have the accusations and court drama hanging over the proceedings.
The reader got to explore how Martha and Thomas could create a new life together, given the strictures of their positions in Puritan society and the narrow pathways for advancement provided. The intricacies of Puritan family life, the importance of the church in society, and the fear inspired by the harshness of the New World environment all contributed to create a lush background for Martha's and Thomas's relationship.
I really liked Martha and Thomas in this one. Of course, I loved Martha in Heretic’s Daughter, too. In fact, she was one of the highlights for me. Yet, in this book we get to explore her personality more in depth and see how her life circumstances and position shaped her. Her strong will and fiery tongue make her stand outside of regular society, making it necessary for her to make her own future herself.
I loved exploring Thomas more. He didn't get much characterization in book one, given that the story focused more on Sarah and Martha. The figure I got in my head from that book was of a silent, large, and strong figure who loved his family and supported them throughout the harsh circumstances they faced during the trial. All of this is evident in this prequel as well. However, we get to explore more of Thomas' past and see how those harsh events shaped his personality and outlook on life. His strength of will and ability to rebuild his life after it's torn down by outside circumstances creates a fantastic foil for Martha and a partner worthy of her.
If ever there was a relationship of equals, Thomas and Martha are it. They both respect each other not only for their outer attraction but also for each other's opinions, thoughts, and life goals. They are two individuals who life has dealt a crappy hand of cards to; yet, they both deal with life’s harshness and set out to build something for themselves anyway. To such strong personalities, I could see rubbing against each other and causing friction. Yet, Thomas and Martha respect each other enough that they support each other instead. I love them together and felt that they were a realistic couple, not something that you see all the time in historical fiction romances.
The one downside to this novel are the bits about the party from London. While they cast some light on Thomas’s past and his involvement with the English Civil War and King Charles’ execution, the way those chapters are told alternating with Martha’s and Thomas’ story make them seem like a completely separate narrative. Characters are introduced whom I forgot about immediately, not developing any connection nor caring for their fates. I felt like the author was jumping from story to story with no regard in developing the secondary set of characters from London. As a consequence, I didn't care about them one bit. To be honest, I skimmed most of those chapters rather than read every word.
Despite the secondary storyline and cast of characters that I couldn't connect with, I found this second book of Kathleen Kent’s duology an enjoyable read. To say I loved learning more about Thomas, Martha, and how they met is an understatement. Even knowing historically what will happen to them, I was held in suspense watching their relationship develop, based on mutual respect. The historical details on daily Puritan life and society was just cream on the top. This is a worthy follow up to Heretic’s Daughter, one of my favorite novels of the year 2016. If you enjoyed that book, look into this one; you won't regret it.