Book Review: The Firefly Witch by Amanda Hughes

I’ve had The Firefly Witch on my bookshelf since it was published a few years ago and I finally had a chance to read it – and I’m glad I did. Set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1662, we meet Circe: a red-haired girl with an amazing skill for weaving. Despite her talents, she doesn’t fit in well with her Puritan family and community (for reasons that are quickly made clear).

Overall, although I had mixed feelings about this book, they were largely positive. I was pulled in immediately by the strong opening, became fully immersed in this imagined world that the author created (and, yes, I did put my 17th-century historian’s hat away and just went along for the ride).

Although I appreciated that the book was set in the 17th century, it was more fantasy than realistic—which is totally fine because it made for a much-needed ‘fun’ read for me after so many nonfiction books to read for work—but there were some elements that jarred with me. I thought she did a great job of making a menacing Matthew Hopkins-type witchfinder and incorporating some of the mindset from the time, but it seemed like most (if not all) the Puritan characters were totally irredeemable: it would have been nice to show at least one of them in a more favourable light.

The male lead/love interest, however, came in around the halfway point and I never really warmed to him — which I lamented because up until around that area I was absolutely in love with the story. I’m a native Spanish speaker, so I was jolted out of the story several times when the male lead called Circe ‘pequeño’- which in this context means ‘little one’ as in boy – and it should have been ‘pequeña’ as that is the term of endearment version to give to a female (maybe this is why I found his character a little irritating).

Other than that, I really enjoyed everyone else but I was particularly interested in the character of Bullfrog – what a thoroughly unique individual. I almost wished (many, many times) that he was the romantic lead – but maybe that’s just me! And Ruith was another character who quickly endeared herself to me.

Although this can be a standalone book, it paves the way for further works and it is indeed the first in The Bold Women of the 17th Century series. I’d probably enjoy going back into the world Hughes created for some escapism.

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