The Firefly Witch
This is the first book in a series named Bold Women of the 17th Century and is supposedly “historical fiction with a bit of love story and fantasy.” I am not so sure about the historical fiction part: while the story of Azubah/Circe is set in the 17th century, colonial life in Puritan Massachusetts is never really brought to life beyond being a threatening background to Circe’s pagan kinsmen living in secret villages. Persecution and witch-hunting in this period were undoubtedly a major issue and could have been depicted vividly without adding the pagan angle.
Having said that, Hughes delivers an exciting and well-written story. She has created a likeable protagonist in red-haired Azubah Craft, a constant badge of shame for her mother who came pregnant to her marital bed. The little girl is viewed askance by everyone in the Puritan settlement but somehow manages to rise above this, escaping into the pleasures of weaving and embroidering, at which she excels. When Azubah’s little village is raided by Indians, she flees and finds her way to a secret settlement where she discovers she is the daughter of one of the elders and that her real name is Circe.
Circe’s life is one of pagan rites and traditions, a haven of tranquility that is soon under severe threat from the Christian colonists. How Circe and her fellow pagans survive this turmoil I leave to the readers to find out for themselves.