Book Review: Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery, by Brom

Book Review: Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery, by Brom

Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery by Brom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brom is almost distressingly talented. Not only is the man a brilliant artist, he has a deft hand and quick wit when it comes to storytelling. Krampus was the first book I had ever read by him, and it was one of my top reads of 2021. This book didn’t hit me quite as hard, but it did prove to me that Krampus was definitely not a one-off. Slewfoot is an exploration of control through religion, the subjugation of women under the patriarchy, the dangers of suppression when mingled with superstition, and the near mystical ability of nature to heal herself from wounds inflicted by man. And on top of all that, it’s just a fun, if brutal, story.

“Angels must often do dark deeds in the name of the Lord.”

Our story takes places in Connecticut in 1666, in a small Puritanical colony. Abitha and her husband are trying to earn the rights to their land when Edward’s brother and landlord, Wallace, sells the land out from under them. After being forced to honor his deal with his brother instead by the ministers of the colony, Wallace is thrilled when tragedy strikes and Abitha is left a widow. But Abitha refuses to give up the land without a fight, instead pledging to pay off the debt and secure the land herself, in her husband’s name. Wallace is dead set against this, and will do anything to see Abitha fail. But Abitha isn’t as alone or unsupported as she appears.

“It seemed at times as though they took great joy in others’ failings, as it made them appear the better, the more pious, more likely to be included when the great rapture finally came and God gathered his flock to him.”

One of the things I love most about Brom is his balance. His stories are by turn beautiful and brutal, charming and grotesque. Nature is benevolent and malicious in equal measures, and those who call the wilds their home are innocent while also being fiercely bloodthirsty when such is called for. He also brilliantly presents the dichotomy between organized religion and more nature-based, traditional folklore and belief systems. I found this fascinating in Krampus, and equally as fascinating in Slewfoot. The wild magic he wrote into this book was lovely and terrifying. Yet another dichotomy that I really appreciated.

“That is not what you want, that is what you need. You are not made out of needs, you are made out of your dreams and desires.”

Brom also did a wonderful job with his characters. There were some, like Wallace, who were completely and utterly despicable. There were other townsfolk, like Reverend Carter and the sheriff, who were more layered. The wildfolk were suitably creepy and impish and childlike, and I was fascinated by Brom’s artistic renderings of them. Then there were Abitha and Samson. These characters were incredibly multifaceted. I ached watching them struggle, and I loved watching their relationship change over the course of the novel.

“It’s not that complicated… Just do your best to treat others as you wish to be treated. What more needs to be said? … Puritans tended to make most moral matters as complicated as possible.”

I love Jesus, but I would never have survived in Puritanical New England. I would have been labeled a witch before I hit my twenties. We might have our share of issues in the current age, but I’m fervently thankful for the freedoms I have as a woman, that would not have been available to me in any past era. This is almost always my takeaway from historical fiction, and Slewfoot was no exception. This was definitely a “down with the patriarchy, down with the establishment” kind of book. Which could have felt awkward in the hands of some male authors, but Brom wrote a wonderfully multifaceted female main character in Abitha. There’s a saying I heard recently: “I support women’s rights, but more importantly, I support women’s wrongs.” That’s a perfect description of this book.

“It is time to be magnificent.”

The horror elements in this were so well done. There was no doubt that this was truly a horror novel, complete with some horrific gore, but it wasn’t too gory to stomach. If you loved the movie The VVitch, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’m going to need more horror in this colonial setting. And I’m definitely going to need more Brom.

You can purchase this book from: Blackwell’s | (Support independent bookstores!)Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible | (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide!)

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