FeaturedHistorical Fiction



Loved it! 😍

100% recommend! Read and decide for yourself whether the magic is real or not. Witch or no witch, Kilgore has written an amazing novel!

I absolutely loved this book, and calling it a page-turner would be an understatement. You will be hard-pressed to put Bitter Magic down after you start it, and the fact that it is based on a true figure in history makes it that much more fascinating. Nancy Kilgore does a fantastic job of developing the characters so that you are truly invested in the outcome of the novel. The story is set in the town of Auldearn, Scotland, and Kilgore’s writing will make you feel like you are there, as a third party, witnessing the trial of accused witch, Isobel Gowdie. Throughout the novel, you gain different perspectives of each main character and how they believe, or don’t believe, in witchcraft. You will read chapters through the eyes of Lady Margaret Hay, and follow her coming-of-age story where she questions her faith and finds both joy and sorrow throughout her journey. You will meet the “cunning woman” and accused witch, Isobel Gowdie and find yourself continually questioning whether her magic is real or if it is a delusion and a symptom of madness. You will also meet Harry and Katharine, two figures who have very different views on how an accused witch should be treated and persecuted.  My favorite part of this book was how it made you question, then re-question, whether Isobel’s healing powers were real or not. You will find yourself continually asking if it was just a series of well-timed coincidences, or if Isobel and her coven truly possess powers. Kilgore also shows you the great beauty of Scotland through the descriptions of the green hills and waterside towns, the castles that the rich reside in, and the stories of the poor, farmtown folk and the festivals they celebrate, but she also shows you the dark, vicious side of Scotland and the civil wars that are tearing the country apart. Margaret’s best friend, Henrietta, is a character that feels firsthand the trials of a Scotland that is divided. The devastation that befalls Henrietta makes you, the reader, hope for a better outcome and hope is what I feel is a core theme of this novel. Bitter Magic will make you hope that Margaret finds peace within herself, that Isobel finds clarity in what she believes is a lost life, and that Katharine finds solace in her beliefs and convictions. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Scottish Historical Fiction or anyone simply looking for an interesting and well written novel. 

Reviewed by

I am a reader that loves advertising to younger generations that books help you learn about the world, and that books do not discriminate regardless of race, social, or financial status. Writing is another hobby for me, and as a first time mom, I am hoping to one day publish my own children’s book.

Auldearn, Scotland, 1660

About the author

Nancy Hayes Kilgore is the author of two other novels, WILD MOUNTAIN (Green Writers Press, 2017) and SEA LEVEL (RCWMS, 2011). She has won the Vermont Writers Prize, a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and a Pushcart Prize nomination. view profile

Published on August 10, 2021

Published by Sunbury Press

80000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Historical Fiction

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