Monday, June 16, 2014

Review - Lies: Ann Putnam Jr.'s Recounting of the Salem Witch Trials by Oliver Dahl


A modernized and historically accurate spin of the bewitching true events that inspired The Crucible
Salem Massachusetts, 1692: Tituba curses two young girls, but Ann Putnam Jr. isn't one of them. In order to help save her friends, Ann develops a plan to accuse the remaining supposed witches of Salem. As the death count rises, each lie buries her deeper and deeper under a curse of her own doing. This tragic experience of guilt, abuse, power, and love gives a first-person view into the spine-chilling months of the Salem Witch Trials when neighbor turned on neighbor at the word of a little girl.

My Rating


My Review

Most of us have heard of the Salem Witch Trials, but don't know more than maybe a short sentence or two about the actual event. Many people were falsely accused of witchcraft and burned alive, or were hanged...maybe thrown into a river or something? That's about the extent of the knowledge I had on the subject.  Lies presents a first-account view of the events of the Salem Witch Trials in the best way possible for a literary escapist like myself - historical fiction. Based in accuracy and reality, but still fictional, Dahl was able to share knowledge about a historical event through a medium that can appeal to both those who find the past riveting and those who've never opened a history textbook in their life. He created an engaging story and a fine would of Young Adult historical fiction.
Lies takes the reader back in time to 1692, in a small and superstitious town that will go down in history. The feel of the book was very authentic, as it acts as a successful transporter to connect the reader to this new world, which was reality once but seems to mirror little of our lives today. However, there is a thin line between being able to world-build a time in the past and just trying to show off historical knowledge and overplay the differences. Luckily, Dahl does not cross this line. The dialogue is completely understandable, which allows readers to connect to characters, regardless of the years that fall between them.

Ann is an interesting character to read about, and I loved seeing the internal conflict that she held throughout the story. She falls deeply into a web of lies, that results in the harm of others, and instead of the expected O, pity me regretful behavior, a part of her really starts to enjoy the damage that her actions cause. It's a glimpse into her dark side, the shadow that all of us have within, and one of my favorite things to see in a character. Not all of Ann's actions and decisions were admirable or respectable, but that only adds to her intrigue and likability as a character.

Despite this, Ann's voice was the one thing that really bothered me about the novel. It wasn't that authentic, and seemed a bit dull at times. Reading from her perspective was not a deep and unique enough experience for me to enjoy, and felt a bit forced. I would have liked to see that darkness in her relayed more in her thoughts, as well as more of the conflict in her mind shown. With the way that her telling went, it seemed more like the story could have been told in a restricted third person POV, and readers would get just about the same experience.

The pacing of Lies was quick and easy to plow through, even though the material itself was not light. It is the kind of read that will not take much time to complete, but may stick with the reader for a while after. The plot did not have too many slow points, and I was able to keep turning pages without break. Lies is an enjoyable and intriguing read that will appeal to a range of historical fiction fans - whether they currently realize they are a historical fiction fan or not.

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