This book was provided to me as an eARC by Tor Nightfire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Slewfoot: a tale of bewitchery by Brom
An ancient spirit awakens in a dark wood. The wildfolk call him Father, slayer, protector. The colonists call him Slewfoot, demon, devil. To Abitha, a recently widowed outcast, alone and vulnerable in her pious village, he is the only one she can turn to for help. Together, they ignite a battle between pagan and Puritan—one that threatens to destroy the entire village, leaving nothing but ashes and bloodshed in their wake.
“If it is a devil you seek, then it is a devil you shall have!”Summary via NetGalley
It’s my understanding that the published version of this book is illustrated. My eARC was not. If you’re familiar with Brom’s art, you know a little about what such illustrations might entail. If you’re not familiar, there are few pieces shown at his website. So, this review is based only on the text…and that’s just fine. The story stands perfectly well on its own two cloven-hooved feet.
I can’t speak for the historical accuracy of the setting or of Abitha’s attitude. I would like to think that there was a give and take between Puritanism and old superstitions and cures, but this isn’t something I know much about (yet). It didn’t bother me too much if there are inaccuracies. While Abitha is a vivid character, this is more Slewfoot’s story (I’ll stick with that name for him).
Brom’s take on the “devil” is one that I hadn’t really encountered. In this case, Slewfoot is a spirit, though powerful, who is vulnerable to being manipulated. The wildfolk want him to be one thing, the Pequot people want him to be something else, and the Puritan settlers believe he is the Devil of Christianity. And maybe he’s all these things. For Abitha, he’s both compassionate and a tool for vengeance. While theology often gives the Devil (and God) many names, we don’t often think about the ramifications of this, or the identity crisis it might cause.
There are moments of horror in his book. Women, taken for witches, are tortured for confessions. From nearly the beginning of the book, men meet pretty grim fates. And that’s beside the scheming and wrong-headedness. Still, I didn’t any of this particularly gratuitous. Despite the concepts and depictions, Slewfoot went down very easily.
Recommended reading for the autumn season!