Book Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

"The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" by Katherine Howe, apart from having an enticing title, is a historical fiction novel about a family of female witches that takes place in various towns near Salem, Massachusetts. Yes, the clichés are just oozing out of this one. However, I have to say that Katherine Howe did passing well on this book, despite the obvious issue of writing on a topic that is so overdone as to be inedible. Her saving grace is her adherence to history, as well as her glimpses into the past.

In the interest of being honest, it must be said that some parts of this novel, especially near the beginning/middle, seem a little forced. Some parts are overly descriptive. Some parts are generic -- especially the romantic bits. It must also be said that the identity of the antagonist, though presumably obscured by Katherine Howe, is rather obvious from the beginning. Not a bit of this book was surprising in the slightest. However, it really did have its pleasant points.

The setting of this novel, while cliché, is unerringly charming. New England is the setting for a great many books for a good reason. Katherine Howe displays a working knowledge of the area and its aesthetic. Some of the characters are cutesy or are as cliché as the story of a family of female witches from Salem, but they also belong in a story like this, to an extent. What is great about this novel are the references to real history. Not to mention the flashbacks to the Colonial times in Massachusetts history. Katherine Howe shines during these chapters and her expertise is obvious. Had the whole book been based in that period, I would have had nary a complaint about it. That is a bit of a bummer, considering the fact that the modern pieces seem to be an attempt at originality in a played out story.

Overall, Katherine Howe's "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" is a slightly better than average witch story. I sincerely hope to see something along the same lines, but with more willingness to delve completely into historical fiction, as her knack for colonial attitudes far exceeds her knack for developing modern college age characters.

Shelly Barclay

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