Protecting You From Yourselves
By Karen Ballum on April 25, 2012
One of things I loved the most about Jessica Spostwood's Born Wicked is that it is an alternate history. I find alternate history novels fascinating and I loved how she tweaked around the real history of the witch trials for her book. In Spotswood's story, New England is ruled by the Brothers, a religious organization that is ruled by men who fear women having power. In addition to being fascinating, it is also sometimes infuriating.
Brother Ishida's voice rises, his face going red, his black-marble eyes shining. "Our rules were made to protect you from yourselves. The witches were headstrong and lustful. Perversions of what women should be. Lord help us if they ever rise again! We must never forget the evil they perpetrated -- the way they corrupted our girls, and the way they used mind-magic on their opponents. These are women who left their enemies empty husks." Page 36
Brother Ishida? I think of his cold eyes and his thin lips and my skin crawls. It is always the women who are punished. Page 135
I would not have done well in a society that was ruled by the Brothers. I am not good at walking slowing and subserviently. I tend to question, and eventually defy, authority. I don't take orders well. At some point I would lose my temper and knowing what I'm like when my temper flares, it would have take about 30 seconds for them to declare I must be a witch due to the number of curses I would have hurled at them.
Fear plays a huge role in Spotswood's New England. The Brothers' fear of magic is so great that they stamp it out, or at least they try. They cannot possess magic, which presents itself only in women, so they declare it to be wicked and wrong. They say that magic corrupted women and it must be extinguished. If that means the death of some girls and women, so be it.
The Brothers also rule by fear. They like to exert their dominance over women. If a woman and a male both participate in a transgression, it is the women who will be punished. Being able to label any woman who is a little too brash or defiant as a witch sure is handy. The community has seen what happens to women who don't conform to the Brothers' standards. They don't that to happen to themselves or their loved ones.
Yet the Brothers cannot claim total control because they cannot get rid of magic. No matter how hard they try to stop it, magic just keeps appearing, sometimes even in their own children. In their society, women have the most to fear but they also have the most to gain by defying the Brothers.
What did you think of the Brothers' in Born Wicked? Could you have followed their rules or would they have thought you were a witch?
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