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Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery



Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery
average rating is 4 out of 5

Horror, Fantasy, Supernatural, Historical Fiction

R. Alex Jenkins

Back in the day, 200+ years ago, a common scold or public nuisance would be tied to a ducking stool and dipped in the river, even more incredibly, women suspected of being witches would supposedly float when rejected by the water; naturally, all of these women drowned.

Also back in the day, chastity belts were an actual thing (how did women go for a pee, pray tell) when their domineering alpha males were out of town, probably because these women had been taken by force anyway.

This is a book about injustice during a time when women were bullied and controlled by men just because of their gender, especially if they were haughty or out of place. It's difficult to believe such times ever existed!

Abitha, the main character in Slewfoot is 'obviously' an evil witch or something of that ilk because she goes against the grain, stands up for herself and doesn't take orders. Everything she does is for the good of her homestead, family unit and friends as she tries to get along and make a better life for herself, but other people don't see it like that and, as she struggles, starts to dabble with spirits and black magic to try and restore the balance.

The way Brom intertwines the spirit world and real world into the main plot is ingenious, as layers in their own realms while also vaguely visible and perceivable from the other.

The images and artwork are terrific too, and the entire concept of the book is refreshing.

Slewfoot (another name for Satan) is a strangely enchanting and beguiling book with a lot of soul and spirit, which somehow steers clear of bitterness as it tries to remain focused and serious, but I do have a few criticisms that stops it from being a five-star read.

It has really lengthy chapters with tons of splits that could have been whittled down a bit. It's also a bit farfetched and unrealistic; what starts off as a gritty tale about an abused woman who at first seeks the right path, but then goes after redemption and revenge, gradually delves into fantasy, and although rewarding, feels less immersive and enjoyable by the end. Somewhere down the line it stopped being historical fiction and decided to roam into the shadow realm.

That level of unrealism marred the book for me as it started to become increasingly fantastical.

Also, horror is a loose-fitting tag that encapsulates practically anything with scary elements in it and if Slewfoot had been labelled 'fantasy' I may not have read it.

There are some shocking components in this book, especially the insight into how badly and unjustly women were treated hundreds of years ago, plus some extreme descriptions of harassment and torture.

I liked this book a lot, but the fantasy element overtook the gritty horror aspect by the end and lost a bit of realism because of it.

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