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The Betrayal of Maggie Blair

The Betrayal of Maggie Blair

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The Betrayal of Maggie Blair

3.5/5 (22 évaluations)
396 pages
9 heures
Apr 18, 2011


In seventeenth-century Scotland, saying the wrong thing can lead to banishment—or worse. Accused of being a witch, sixteen-year-old Maggie Blair is sentenced to be hanged. She escapes, but instead of finding shelter with her principled, patriotic uncle, she brings disaster to his door. 

Betrayed by one of her own accusers, Maggie must try to save her uncle and his family from the king’s men, even if she has to risk her own life in the process.Originally published in the UK, this book has a powerful blend of heart-stopping action and thought-provoking themes.
Apr 18, 2011

À propos de l'auteur

Elizabeth Laird is the multi-award-winning author of several much-loved children's books including The Garbage King, The Fastest Boy in the World and Dindy and the Elephant. She has been shortlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal six times. She lives in Britain now, but still likes to travel as much as she can.

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The Betrayal of Maggie Blair - Elizabeth Laird

Chapter 1

I was the first one to see the dead whale lying on the sand at Scalpsie Bay. It must have been washed up in the night. I could imagine it flopping out of the sea, thrashing its tail, and opening and shutting the cavern of its mouth. It was huge and shapeless, a horrible dead thing, and it looked as if it would feel slimy if you dared to touch it. I crept up to it cautiously. There were monsters in the deep, I knew, and a great one, the Leviathan, which the Lord had made to be the terror of fishermen. Was this one of them? Would it come to life and devour me?

The sand was ridged into ripples by the outgoing tide, which had left the usual orange lines of seaweed and bright white stripes of shells. The tide had also scooped out little pools around the dead beast’s sides, and crabs were already scuttling there, as curious as I was.

It was a cold day in December. The sun had barely risen, and I’d pulled my shawl tightly around my head and shoulders. But it wasn’t only the chill of the wet sand beneath my bare feet that made me shiver. There was a strangeness in the air.

Across the water I could already make out the Isle of Arran, rearing up out of the sea, the tops of its mountains hidden as usual in a crown of clouds. I’d seen Arran a dozen times a day, every day of my life, each time I’d stepped out the door of my grandmother’s cottage. I knew it so well that I hardly ever noticed it.

But today as I looked up at the mountains from the dead whale in front of me, the island seemed to shift, and for a moment I thought it was moving toward me, creeping across the water. It was coming for me, wanting to swallow me up, along with the beach and Granny’s cottage, Scalpsie Bay, and the whole of the Isle of Bute.

And then beyond Arran, out there in the sea, a shaft of sunlight pierced through the clouds and laid a golden path across the gray water, tingeing the dead whale with brilliant light. The clouds were dazzled with glory, and I was struck with a terror so great that my legs stiffened and I couldn’t move.

It’s the Lord Jesus, I whispered. He’s coming now, to judge the living and the dead.

I waited, my hands clamped in a petrified clasp, expecting to see Christ walk down the sunbeam and across the water, angels flying on gleaming wings around him. The minister had said there would be trumpets as the saved rose up in the air like flocks of giant birds to meet the Lord, but down here on the ground there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth as the damned were sucked into Hell by the Evil One.

Am I saved, Lord Jesus? Will you take me? I cried out loud. And Granny too?

The clouds were moving farther apart, and the golden path was widening, making the white crests on the little waves sparkle like the clothes of the Seraphim.

I was certain of it then. I wasn’t one of the Chosen to rise with Jesus in glory. I was one of the damned, and Granny was too.

No! I shrieked. Not yet! Give me another chance, Lord Jesus!

And then I must have fallen down because the next thing I remember was Granny saying, She’s taken a fit, the silly wee thing. Pick her up, won’t you?

I was only half conscious again, but I knew it was Mr. Macbean’s rough hands painfully holding my arms and the gruff voice of Samuel Kirby complaining as he held my legs.

What are you doing, you dafties? Granny shouted in the rough, angry voice I dreaded. Letting her head fall back like that! Trying to break her neck, are you? Think she’s a sack of oatmeal?

Behind me, above the crunch of many feet following us up the beach toward our cottage, I could hear anxious murmurs.

The creature’s the size of a kirk! And the tail on it, did you see? It’ll stink when it rots. Infect the air for weeks, so it will.

And the sniping tongues were busy as usual.

Hark at Elspeth! Shouting like that. Evil old woman. Why does she want to be so sharp? They should drop the girl and let the old body carry her home herself.

Then came the sound of our own door creaking back on its leather hinge, the smell of peat smoke, and the soft tail of Sheba the cat brushing against my dangling hand.

They dropped me down on the pile of straw in the corner that I used as a bed, and a moment later Granny had shooed them out of the cottage. I was quite back in my wits by then, and I started to sit up.

Stay there, commanded Granny.

She was standing over me, frowning as she stared at me. Her mouth was pulled down hard at the corners, and the stiff black hairs on her chin were quivering. They were sharp, those bristles, but not as sharp as the bristles in her soul.

Now then, Maggie. What was all that for? Why did you faint? What did you see?

Nothing, Granny. The whale . . .

She shook her head impatiently.

Never mind the whale. While you were away, in the faint. Was there a vision?

No. I just—everything was black. Before that I thought I saw—

What? What did you see? Do I have to pull it out of you?

The sky looked strange, and there was the whale— it scared me—and I thought that Jesus was coming. Down from the sky. I thought it was the Last Day.

She stared at me a moment longer. There wasn’t much light in the cottage, only a square of brightness that came through the open door and a faint glow from the peat burning in the middle of the room, but I could see her eyes glittering.

The whale’s an omen. It means no good. It didn’t speak to you?

No! It was dead. I thought the Lord Jesus was coming, that’s all.

Hmph. She turned away and pulled on the chain that hung from the rafter, holding the cauldron in place over the fire. That’s nothing but kirk talk. You’re a disappointment to me, Maggie. Your mother had it, the gift of far-seeing, but you’ve nothing more in your head than what’s been put there by the minister. You’re your father all over again, stubborn and blind and selfish. My Mary gave you nothing of herself at all. If I hadn’t delivered you into this world with my own hands, I’d have thought you were changed at birth.

Granny knew where to plunge her dagger and twist it for good measure. There was no point in answering her. I bit my lip, stood up, and shook the straws off the rough wool of my skirt.

Shall I milk Blackie now?

After you’ve touched a dead whale? You’ll pass on the bad luck and dry her milk up for good. You’re more trouble than you’re worth, Maggie. Always were, always will be.

I didn’t touch the whale. I only . . .

She raised a hand and I ducked.

Get away up the hill and cut a sack of peat. The stack’s low already, or had you been too full of yourself to notice?

Cutting peat and lugging it home was the hardest work of all, and usually I hated it, but today, in spite of the rain that was now sweeping in from the sea, I was glad to get out of the cottage and run away to the glen. I usually went the long way, up the firm path that went around and about before it reached the peat cuttings, but today I plunged straight on through the bog, trampling furiously through the mass of reeds and flags and the treacherous bright grass that hid the pools of water, not hearing the suck of the mud as I pulled my feet out, not feeling the wetness that seeped up the bottom of my gown, not even noticing the scratches from the prickly gorse as it tore at my arms.

An evil old woman. They were right down there. That’s what you are. Away from Granny, I felt brave enough to answer back. "I am like my mam. I’ve her hair, and her eyes, and her smile, so Tam says."

Most people called old Tam a rogue, a thief, a lying, drunken rascal, living in his tumbledown shack like a pig in a sty. But he was none of those things to me. He’d known my mother, and I knew he’d never lie about her to me.

I don’t remember my mother. She was Granny’s only child, and she died of a fever when I was a very little girl. I just about remember my father. He was a big man, not given to talking much. He was a rover by nature, Tam said. He came to the Isle of Bute from the mainland to fetch the Laird of Keames’s cattle and drive them east across the hills to sell in Glasgow. He was only meant to stay in Bute for a week or two, while the cattle were rounded up for him, but he chanced on my mother as she walked down the lane to the field to milk Blackie one warm June evening. The honeysuckle was in flower and the wild roses too, and it was all over with him at once, so Tam said.

Never a love like it, Maidie, Tam told me. Don’t you listen to your granny. A child born of love you are, given to love, made for love.

Granny said the sea took my father, I asked Tam once. What did she mean?

I’d imagined a great wave curling up the beach, twining around my father’s legs, and sucking him back into the depths.

An accident, Maidie. Nothing more. Tam heaved a sigh. Your father was taking the cattle to the mainland up by Colintraive, making them swim across the narrows there. He’d done it a dozen times before. The beasts weren’t easy—lively young steers they were—and one of them was thrashing about in the water as if a demon possessed it. Perhaps a demon did, for the steer caught your father on the head with its horn, and it went right through his temple. He went down under the water, and when he was washed up a week later, there was a wound from his eyebrow to the line of his hair deep enough to put your hand inside.

There’s nothing like hard work in the cold of a wet December day for cooling your temper, and by the time I got home I was more miserable than angry. My arms were aching from the weight of the sack. I was wet through. The mud on my hem slapped clammily against my ankles, and I wished I’d been sensible instead of running through the bog.

I was expecting another scolding from Granny as soon as she saw the state of my clothes, the rips in my shawl, and my face all streaked with peat and rain and tears, but she only said, "Oh, so it’s you come home again, and a fine sight you are too. Running through the bog like a mad child—I saw you."

She took my wooden bowl down from the shelf, ladled some hot porridge into it from the cauldron, and put it into my hands.

Take off that soaking shawl and put it to dry, and your gown too.

It wasn’t an apology exactly, but it was all I’d get. I could see that she was sorry for what she’d said by the way she set a stool and told me to sit down by the fire of peat that was smoldering on the hearthstone in the middle of the room. I was feeling chilled now and was shivering. I crouched low over the weak flames, never minding the thick smoke that curled up into my face, grateful for Sheba, who jumped up into my lap and let me warm my hands in her soft black fur.

The days are short in December. It was soon time to fetch Blackie in for the night and shut her into her byre, which was no more than a room beside the kitchen. For once, Granny went out to find her herself and to milk her too. As she came back toward the cottage, I could hear her talking to someone and laughing. There was only one person who could draw such a happy sound from her.

Tam, I thought, jumping up with delight.

Blackie’s hooves clopped on the stone threshold of her byre, and then came a thud against the thin wooden partition at the end of the kitchen as she butted her manger with her head. The kitchen door opened, and Granny and Tam came in.

Tam’s shirt was dark with sweat, his short breeks were ragged at the ankles and torn at the knees, and the plaid he wore wrapped around himself was so dirty and stained that the wool’s once-bright colors had gone for good. But that meant nothing to me. His front teeth were gone, his face was pitted and scarred with the smallpox, his long, tall body was as thin as a stick, and the hair under his blue bonnet had mostly fallen out, but there was no one who cared for me as Tam did, and no one else that I loved.

Look at the girl now, he said, setting a black bottle down on the table. She summons monsters from the sea with the power of her beautiful eyes. It was you who sang to the poor whale, was it, Maidie, and lured it up to its death on the beach?

"I did not."

For once, I didn’t like Tam’s teasing. The whale had been too grand and strange for jokes.

Granny had gone outside again to fetch water from the burn.

Why do you always call me Maidie? I asked Tam. I’d meant to ask him often but never dared while Granny was around.

He looked over his shoulder, but Granny was still filling the bucket.

You know why, my pretty one. He pinched my chin. It was what I always called your mother. Mary, her name was to everyone else, but Maidie she was to me. And you are just like her. Even prettier, maybe.

But she had the gift, didn’t she? Granny said so. The second sight.

Oh, that. He shook his head. You shouldn’t mind your granny, Maidie. She speaks sharply, and who wouldn’t, with the troubles life has brought her? She loves you in her heart.

I shook my head and looked away from him, down into the red caves the fire had made in the burning peat.

Anyway, be thankful that your mother didn’t pass the gift on to you. It’s not a comfortable thing, to foresee the future and know beforehand the manner of a person’s death.

Granny came back then, a heavy bucket in each hand, and Tam set about fetching down the beakers and pouring out the whiskey, a good long slug for the two of them and a little drop for me. Then he put his hand inside his shirt, and with a flourish he pulled out a duck, holding it up by its webbed feet so that its bright feathered head hung down, its eyes dead and glazed.

Will you look at this. A king’s feast, that’s what we’ll have tonight. You’ll want to save the feathers, Elspeth. Where shall I pluck the wee fellow?

Oh, it was good that night. The duck’s feathers flew and the pot simmered and the whiskey sank in the bottle. And Tam, as he always did, started on the old stories. They were stories of the sea, put into his head by the whale. He told my favorite, the one about the seal who shed her skin and became a beautiful woman who married a fisherman. Her children were as pretty as she was, and she loved them, I suppose, but one night she found her old sealskin and put it on, and a longing for the sea overcame her. Back she went under the waves, a seal once more, and her children never saw her again.

Like I never saw my mam again, I thought.

Tam went on to tell tales of mermaids and sea horses and a monster that lived in a loch along with the hero who killed it. But what with the purring of Sheba on my lap, the good food in my stomach, the peat smoke in my eyes, the whiskey in my head, and the tiredness in my arms and legs, I couldn’t stay awake.

No, no, Elspeth, I heard Tam say. It was Canola who invented the harp. She heard the wind blow through the sinews that clung to the ribs of a rotting dead whale, and it gave her the idea.

Whales again, I thought. I was so sleepy I almost fell off my stool. Tam saw me nod and laughed.

Away to your bed, Maidie, and dream sweetly all night long.

Chapter 2

I think I did have happy dreams that night, but they floated away like wisps of mist, and I couldn’t remember what they were. My sleep wasn’t long, anyway, because before dawn there came a battering on the door, startling me awake so suddenly that I shot up out of the straw like a hunted hare.

Elspeth! You’re to come quickly! My Jeanie’s got her pains!

It was Mr. Macbean, and I knew what he wanted. Granny was a famed midwife, and if his wife’s time had come, he’d need her to bring the baby safely into the world.

It was pitch-dark in the house so I kicked at the peat. A little flame flared up, giving enough light for me to see Granny lying dead asleep on the floor, her empty beaker of whiskey by her hand. Tam had gone.

Wait a minute, Mr. Macbean, I called out. I’ll wake her up.

Is that you, Maggie? The voice outside the door was hoarse with anxiety. Get her up quick, for the Lord’s sake. Jeanie’s pains are bad.

Granny’s snores were as loud as the snorts of Mr. Macbean’s bull in a rage, and I had to shake and shake her before she’d stir. When she did wake, she only pushed me off and tried to roll over.

No, Granny! You must get up. Mr. Macbean’s here, and the baby’s on its way.

She opened one eye and glared at me, and even by the dying flame I could see that the drink was still on her. My heart sank.

Get up, Granny. You have to.

The hammering on the door started again.

Granny lurched to her feet, took a deep swallow of water from the pail of water, and splashed her face.

My shawl, Maggie, she croaked, and staggered to the door.

She was in no fit state; I could see that. I fetched my own shawl, still damp from yesterday, and followed her outside. She’d need me to bring her safely home.

Mr. Macbean was the one man in Scalpsie Bay rich enough to own a horse, and he had ridden it to our cottage. There was only a faint glimmer of light outside from the quarter moon, but he could see how far gone Granny was.

Look at the state of her. Drunk, he said with disgust. Tonight of all nights.

Without waiting for a word from Granny, he picked her up and heaved her onto the horse, then set off at a smart run up the lane, with me trotting along behind.

The cold night air, the jolting ride, and the water she’d drunk seemed to sober up Granny, because she was looking sharper when we reached the Macbean farm. It was the biggest holding for miles around, standing proud on its own land. Mrs. Macbean’s serving girl, Annie, was standing outside the farmhouse door, twisting her apron around in her hands.

Oh, it’s you, Maggie, she said, pursing her mouth in the irritating way she put on whenever she saw me. I thought it was a wild animal creeping up like that.

There was a hiss from Granny, who had heard her, and Annie shriveled up like a leaf held to a flame. I couldn’t help grinning. Annie was only a servant, but she gave herself more airs than the lady of Keames Castle herself.

Mr. Macbean had plucked Granny off the horse, and she was already at the farmhouse door.

Where is she? Granny demanded, and I heard with relief that her voice was firm and clear.

Mr. Macbean led the way into the farm kitchen and beyond it to the inner room. There was a lamp burning there, and looking in I saw a proper bedstead, with sheets of linen and all, and a ceiling hiding the rafters, and a chest of carved wood. I was so impressed I barely noticed Mrs. Macbean, who was lying with her back arched and her face red and wet with sweat.

Then Granny said, Where’s that Annie girl? Fetch water, can’t you? And the rest of you, give a body room to breathe.

By that time, the three older Macbean children were crowding around the door beside me, along with the manservant and Mr. Macbean himself, but Granny shut the door in our faces, and we were left standing in the kitchen.

I don’t remember how long we waited, listening to the poor woman crying out in pain. I do remember the faces of the little Macbeans huddling close together, their eyes round with fear. I liked to be with children. I didn’t often get the chance. I felt sorry for them, anyway, so I knelt beside them and said, Your mammie’s going to be fine, you’ll see. While we’re waiting, why don’t I tell you a story?

They nodded, and the smallest one, Robbie, put his thumb in his mouth.

A while ago, not far from here, I began, there was a seal who came out of the sea and took off her skin and turned herself into a beautiful . . .

Mr. Macbean came in from stabling the horse.

No more of that, he said roughly. If it’s stories you want, read them true ones from the Good Book. I won’t have their heads filled with fairies and magic and the works of the Devil.

He took a Bible down from a shelf and put it into my hands. It was so heavy I had to rest it on my knees. I’d never seen such a big Bible outside the kirk before. Granny couldn’t read, and there were no books in our house.

Open it, Mr. Macbean said unpleasantly. Read a story.

I—I can’t read, I said, lifting it back up to him.

No, Maggie, you can’t, but it’s time you learned. You should study the Scripture and follow the path of righteousness before that grandmother of yours leads you to Hell and destruction.

I didn’t know what to say. Little Robbie had crept close and laid his head down on my lap. I knelt there, stroking his hair and staring up at Mr. Macbean.

Well, he said, in a kinder tone, you’re a good lass, Maggie, after all. Mind now, that you don’t take on the infection of wickedness from Elspeth. She . . .

Then came the sounds from the next room we had been waiting for—a final loud cry from Mrs. Macbean and a thin wail from the new baby. Mr. Macbean’s face cracked open in a great smile, and I saw a glimpse of something in him that could be good and loving. I’m glad I did, because later all that came from him toward us was hatred and cruelty.

The door of the next room opened, and Granny came out with the new baby in her arms. The children jumped up and ran to look, but she kicked out at them to shoo them away.

Elspeth, came a weak voice from the bed behind her, you’re a good soul, whatever they say, and you’ve saved us both. I can never thank you . . .

The basket, Granny said. The bread and cheese. It won’t work without them.

She was looking at Annie, who was standing sulkily by the corner shelf—jealous, I think, of the way the children had taken to me. Annie picked up the basket beside her, putting into it a loaf and a round cheese from the shelf. Impatiently, Granny grabbed it from her, planted the baby on top of the food, and stamping across to the hearth in the middle of the room, she began to swing the basket around and around on the iron hook from which the cauldron usually hung. She was singing something under her breath. The peat fire had died down, and the only light came from a small flame guttering in the oil lamp by the door. It cast Granny’s shadow so monstrously on the wall behind her that even I was frightened.

Mr. Macbean darted forward.

Stop that! How dare you? I won’t have devilish practices, not in my house!

Granny stopped muttering and jerked the basket to a standstill. The baby inside it set up a wail again. I could see that Granny was tired and her head was aching, and the anger that always simmered inside her was ready to break out. Her eyes, red from the drink and lack of sleep, narrowed, and she thrust the basket into Mr. Macbean’s hands.

Take him, then. It was a favor I was doing you, to protect him from evil. You’d best christen him quickly, for by the look of him he’ll not be here long.

Mr. Macbean put the basket gently down on the ground and bent to lift his son out of it. As he held him close to his chest, the three other children clustered around him. They looked afraid.

John, what are you doing? Bring him back to me! came Mrs. Macbean’s weak voice from the next room. Elspeth, are you still there?

Ignoring her, Granny picked up her shawl and flung it over her wild gray hair.

I wish you joy of him, while he lives, she spat out, and without a glance at me flung out of the house into the cold night.

It wasn’t until we had stumbled halfway home and the moon, coming suddenly out from behind the clouds, shone a sliver of light over the water of Scalpsie Bay that I remembered the end of the seal story and was glad after all that Mr. Macbean had stopped me from finishing it. The seal mother goes away and never comes back. It would have been a hard thing for wee Robbie to hear just then.

Perhaps it was the Devil that put the story into my head, to torment those poor children, I thought with a shudder. And to be on the safe side, I chanted to myself, "Deliver us from evil, deliver us from evil," all the way home.

Dawn was on its way by then, and a gray wet dawn it was too. It didn’t break, as the saying goes, but slithered up upon the land and sea in a misty, ghostly way.

I was ahead of Granny as we reached the cottage, and I jumped with fright because the door of Blackie’s byre slowly swung open. Then Tam stumbled out. He was covered in wisps of straw, and clots of dried dung were stuck to his hair. Granny burst into a cackle of laughter.

Old fool! Too blootered to find your way home, were you? You never slept the night in the byre with the cow?

Tam mumbled something then turned away, fumbling with his breeks to relieve himself. He was doing it too close to the house for my liking.

I went inside quickly. I was afraid that other feelings for Tam would push their way in and spoil the love I felt for him. I didn’t want to see weakness and silliness and the blur of drink in his eyes. I didn’t want to feel pity or contempt.

The fire was nearly out, and it took a while to coax it back to life. The floor needed sweeping, Blackie needed milking, and the porridge had to be cooked. Granny, who had shooed Tam away from our door with a shake of her broom as if he was a stray dog, kept me at it all morning.

The lane running along the head of Scalpsie Bay goes directly past our cottage, and anyone coming or going to the Macbean farm has to pass right by us. It annoyed Mr. Macbean, as I knew well, to see the good land of our small field and kail yard, which took a bite out of his big farm. He was envious of the stream running so close to the cottage, and the treasures of the beach being ours for the first taking. He’d long wanted to gobble our place up and take it into his own holding.

Later that morning he rode by with a sack of oatmeal as payment for Granny’s services, and his eyes wandered possessively past me toward the cottage. I flushed with annoyance at the sneer in his voice when he spoke. When was it you last put fresh turf on your roof? You must be flooded through those holes every time it rains.

It’s dry enough, I said stiffly.

He pretended to look sympathetic.

It’s too much for you though, this place, isn’t it, Maggie? An old woman and a young girl! I wonder you don’t give it up and move somewhere more fitting. Elspeth could find a place in Rothesay, couldn’t she? And you could go to be a serving girl like our Annie.

I had to bite my lip to stop my anger bursting out, but I wasn’t like Granny. I could always hold it in. I stared back at him coolly and said, I hope the baby’s well and Mrs. Macbean. Have you chosen a name for him? When is the christening to be?

He looked embarrassed.

The christening will be soon enough. We’ll see. He’s to be named Ebenezer.

He mounted his horse and rode off.

Ebenezer! snorted Granny, who had come out of the cottage in time to see Mr. Macbean disappear over the rise toward Rothesay. What kind of fool name is that? Not that the child will bear it for long. The mark of death is on him.

Chapter 3

The gossips of Scalpsie Bay had been right. The whale stank as it rotted. Foulness hung in the air, and even the seagulls, which had feasted on the flesh at first, would not tear at the carcass anymore.

The other news was that a new minister had come to the church at Kingarth. His name was Mr. Robertson.

A busybody, by the look of him, Granny said sourly, watching the man’s lean, black-coated figure stride energetically up the lane toward Macbean’s. He’ll be after us to go to the kirk every week, so he can insult us from his pulpit. They’re all the same. Crows in black suits.

I watched for the minister coming back so that I could take a peep at him. There were hardly ever strangers in Scalpsie Bay, and a new face was always a wonder. I hid behind the hedge and looked through a

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  • (3/5)
    Maggie lives on a small island off the coast of Scotland with her grandmother. Her grandmother is the local midwife and a very harsh, angry and difficult woman, making her a prime target to be seen as a witch. Maggie is tried and found guilty along with her however she manages to escape to her Uncle Blair's home, only to find herself in more danger then ever because of her Uncle's religious beliefs.

    This book was definitely not what I expected and that was all because of Maggie. At the books opening Maggie is such a meek character and her goals just seem so small. She really just wants to have a family, belong, and get married or simply survive depending on her circumstance. She see's herself as a very weak person.

    Maggie is obviously stronger then she seems and she's also very good at reading people, except for herself. She always has help getting around and escaping however she never realizes that the inpetus comes from herself. She is the one that decides to go to the prison and she is the one who gets herself home. I liked the change where she finally realized that she was capable of taking care of herself. I know being financially able to care for herself helped a lot but she also realized that she had the ability too as well.

    There is a lot of really great historical information in this book particularly regarding how and why people were found to be witches, and religion although I did get a little bit confused about the Covenanter's. I just wish that it had been exlpained more thoroughly a little earlier in the book because the initial explanations made it hard to understand what the Covenanters and the English Church were fighting about exactly. The author's historical note at the end of the text was extremely helpful.
  • (1/5)
    This book should really go under the heading Not What You Think It Is. Whoever wrote the flap copy did readers a disservice by highlighting the witchcraft aspects of the book and not giving an accurate description of what it is, so I'll do that now.

    A historical young adult novel about how a Scottish girl deals with religious persecution. Maggie is accused of being a witch, but there's nothing paranormal or suspenseful about this story.
  • (3/5)
    I’m a big, big fan of historical fiction. But I’ll be honest – I don’t know much about the history of Scotland. I haven’t even seen the movie Braveheart (although I’ve heard that’s not historically accurate, so, you know). So I was pretty excited about The Betrayal of Maggie Blair - historical fiction, plus it’s about a country period I don’t know that much about it.And, okay, the book was pretty slow going at first. Other people might not see it that way – I mean, nothing about being accused as a witch is boring, but it did take me a while to get into. But the storyline got more and more interesting as it went on, and definitely more rocky for Maggie. Seriously – that girl went through a lot of crap throughout this book. I really felt for her. She was really, really loyal to her family and would do anything for them, and I loved that.Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that attached to any of the other characters. Annie exasperated me, but I thought she was a well written and interesting character. No one else really stood out to me as being memorable.There is a lot of religious elements to this book, which makes sense considering the time period. A rocky time for religion, no matter where you were.Overall, The Betrayal of Maggie Blair was a very interesting, albiet slow book. Elizabeth Laird did an excellent job of describing the time period well enough for the reader to visualize. I definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction. Also – the finished copy is gorgeous, so added bonus!
  • (4/5)
    It took all of 10 minutes for me to be caught up in Maggie Blair's story in The Betrayal of Maggie Blair. Right away, I knew this would be a tale I'd have difficulty setting down, and I devoured it in a single, long afternoon of reading (and what a joy that was).I'm a big fan of girls with a spine, those able to take care of themselves and not needing to do the predictable (marry, sell themselves out in someway, etc). Maggie Blair faces trials like crazy - from being tried along with her grandmother for being a witch, to escaping and living dangerously in a time where British soldiers roamed Scotland and the Scottish were rebelling against the King being named the head of the Church rather than God.Elizabeth Laird does a fantastic job of bringing this story to life and providing her reader with enough action to keep the interest level high, a fantastic villain who anyone would love to hate, and a main character who I could not only identify with, but also felt good cheering on with every decision she made.I'm adding this to my list of books graced with strong-willed, adventurous female protagonists and will definitely be on the lookout for more books by Elizabeth Laird.
  • (4/5)
    I have to say that the cover is the thing that caught my eye with this book. It's just so beautiful; who wouldn't want to read a book with a cover like this? Anyhow, I was happy to see that I was approved to read this book from NetGalley and I couldn't wait to get right into it. I have to admit that while I was super excited to read this book at first once I started reading I found that at times the story lagged. I really love the character of Maggie Blair. She was so strong but at the same time unsure of herself in this book. She was quite endearing and always had good intuition. She was loyal to family regardless of what might happen to her as well. I thought that this book might have played a bit more on witchcraft but it was nice that the book maintained historically true. Many people during these times were killed because they were thought to be witches. In reality, they were no more a witch than you or I. Religion played a huge role in the book and this is also fitting with the time. Religion was a big debate during this time and many people were sentenced to death for not perscribing to the right religion. This kind of thing really bothers me. I feel that as long as you are staying true to yourself and living morally then who is anyone else to say that what you believe in is wrong. Isn't the fundamental basis of religion love and understanding. If that's the case then why have so many people died over the years in the name of religion. It is something that really frustrates me and while reading this book I found myself cheering on Maggie who didn't know what she believed in and refused to conform to what someone else wanted her to. As I say, while at times I found the story lagged a bit in the end I was happy with the way everything played out. I would definitley recommend that you read but I do warn you that if you are looking for this book to be paranormal and about witches you will be disappointed.
  • (5/5)
    First let me say that I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this cover. It is so beautiful.This book had actually been previously released in the UK under another name. It is going to be making its US debut in just a short while.Elizabeth Laird allows the reader to step back in time to 17th century Scotland. It was a time of struggle and strife. Young Maggie Blair was falsely accused of witchcraft as many others were. It was common back then to quickly call someone a witch because you didn’t like them. Thus ending their life.Unlike many women, Maggie managed to escape her captures and goes on the run. She ends up at her uncle’s house in the hopes of hiding out. However, trouble is close on her heels.I really loved the vivid descriptions of the people and places. I have always wanted to go to Scotland since my mom’s family is from there. This book helped transport me there.In conjunction with the Wakela's World Disclosure Statement, I received a product in order to enable my review. No other compensation has been received. My statements are an honest account of my experience with the brand. The opinions stated here are mine alone.
  • (4/5)
    One thing I dislike, is the ignorance people have when it comes to the bible. People think that just because they think they know it, they know whats best for everyone. The Betrayal of Maggie Blair is just that. Religious people ignorant in what they read that they killed, hurt, accused innocent people, women mostly of being witches. And whats worse is those church going people who put everyone down using the bible are worse then everyone else.This story is very touching but also hurtful to read. As the reader follows Maggie, we see and feel every emotion that she goes through. Hurt, rage, sadness, fear. I wanted so badly to slap all those stupid people for being dumb. And whats ironic is that those people who accused Maggie weren't perfect either. They were hiding their sins thinking that they can hide from God using his words against him. And boy did the truth ever did come out.The plot is breath-taking. Every turn of the page lead me to more and more anger as I see the betrayal of Maggie grow and grow. Ms Laird wrote a fantastic book that showcased every little detail in the witch trials. I was literally holding my every waking breathe hoping for the best for Maggie. It just seems that nothing let up for her. Now, while most witches trials all lead to a guilty verdict, I was glad that there is that one and rare good ending for some girls who were accused. It wasn't the best ending. Maggie went through so much that nothing that those people say or do now could ever take back what they did to her. I am glad that Maggie had some kind of good outcome for her. Her strength amazed me. AMAZED ME! She held her head up high and did not stand for what those people did.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book overall. I liked the characters, Maggie is a likeable heroine without being arrogant or agressive, and more importantly, she has flaws! She is feeble, admits it when she is being selfish and when she is scared. She's also incredibly brave. To me this made her very real. My favorite part was Maggie's friendship with old Tam, a vagabond who helps her escape more than once. I also loved to hate Annie, who would fit the role of the villain of this story. In terms of characterization, I think this book does an excellent job.One thing that I have to say is that this book is unnecessarily long. An example, an extremely long passage about Maggie looking for an egg. I am not familiar with Scotland's history, and unfortunately I didn't feel I got a sense of what was happening in the era just from the book. I believe it's because it's told from Maggie's POV and she is after all just a teenager. So if you just want to read about Maggie's adventures it would be great. There is an afterword of course so that helps. Turns out the author is related to some of the characters, which I thought was pretty neat so keep an eye on those last names!
  • (4/5)
    I thought this was a great historical book! It had everything required for a wonderful read and I adored the main character.I knew I would enjoy it first of all because it had witches in it- I really enjoy a good witch story and I loved the historical scottish version.I think someone else mentioned that if you liked the Crucible you would enjoy this book- I agree. She was accused of being a witch and sentenced to hang.It was refreshing to read something that is different from all the other witch books out there right now. It was real and the struggle for survival was real. It contained a great message of salvation.I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I definitely recommend it to other historical fiction lovers!4 STARS
  • (4/5)
    What a remarkable historical piece! The Betrayal Of Maggie Blair weaves an incredible story, rich in history and characters, sure to enchant you to turn the pages faster to find the hard truths of witchcraft and heresy.At first, I could not make head or tails of Maggie Blair. Did I like her? Did I find her too naive and easily swayed by charismatic preachers? Will she be hanged or burnt on the false accusations of witchcraft? As these questions churned in my head, I followed Maggie's plight and found myself slowly falling in love with this book! Elizabeth Laird really throws everything plus the kitchen sink into Maggie's story and gives us insights into what it might have been liked back then when religion played a big part in people's lives - and witchcraft and heresy were starting to cause panic.All the characters in The Betrayal Of Maggie Blair gave the story much flavor. The villains, the heroes, the romantics, the devout, the liars, the betrayed, the power-hungry - it was hard to let everyone go at the end. Each had a role to play in this drama, and they played it extremely well. No one was a cookie-cutter character, having both qualities to redeem and damn them. Even the villains tugged at my sympathies, although they certainly deserved their unfortunate end as time went on.If you enjoyed The Witch Of Blackbird Pond, The Crucible, or falling into the time period where they chased after witches, I trust you will find The Betrayal Of Maggie Blair just as magical!
  • (5/5)
    To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement. Elizabeth Laird has created a setting so detailed you are mentally transported back into 17th century Scotland. This is the story of 16 year old Maggie who lives with her grandmother after her father’s death. Her grandmother is not liked by most of the people around her. As a bitter and hateful old woman she spits her venom on everyone around her. When a newborn dies the neighbors have a way to get rid of her. They accuse her of being a witch and burn her. This was often the case during this time period. It didn’t take much to be accused of witchcraft. Maggie escapes her grandmother’s fate through the help of a family friend. She makes her way to her uncle’s house where she is welcomed. She soon learns things are not going well for her uncle. The king wants to remove God from the church and set himself up as supreme being. It is kind of like the story of Daniel in the Bible where those who did not bow to the king and worship him were thrown in the lions den. In this story the king has men watching the people. They have secret meetings to try to figure out what to do about the king. When many of them are arrested Maggie finds herself doing whatever she has to do just to save her family.Problems with religious differences is not new. It can be traced back to Bible times. Elizabeth Laird has used her ancestors to help bring this plight to light. There was a lot of Scottish history that I probably would not have learned if it had not been for this book. I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to recommend it to my friends. Unfortunately they will have to wait until April to read it. But it is worth the wait.
  • (4/5)
    Title: The Betrayal of Maggie BlairAuthor: Elizabeth LairdExpected publication: April 18th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books for ChildrenMaggie Blair drew the short stick in life. Her mother died during childbirth, and her father died a few years later. Living in 17th century Scotland would be hard enough, but try living with a grandmother whom everyone thinks is a witch! Maggie knew her grandmother wasn’t a witch, but she sure did act like one! Maggie’s grandmother did love her, she just never showed it. On top of all that, a girl Maggie’s age, who could have been Maggie’s only friend, betrayed her more than once. Maggie has many adventures, starting with being tried alongside her grandmother for being a witch. Then, disguised as a boy she travels across Scotland to find her long lost Uncle Blair. Once she finally settles into a life with her uncle and his family, who turns up but the girl who betrayed her! After being betrayed yet again by this girl, Maggie decides to set off on yet another adventure to save her uncle and his family.This book was not quite what I expected. For some reason I was expecting a “Harry Potterish” type story. Once I got over that, I really enjoyed this story. Maggie is someone that many people can relate to. She is hard working, kind hearted, and very innocent. I found myself wanting to stick up for her throughout the book, but she learned to do this for herself. The focus of the story is Church vs. State. As a Christian, I liked the message of salvation that was mixed into the story, without being preachy to the reader.Another point of interest is that some of these characters were based on the author’s ancestors. The author also traveled to the locations mentioned in the book, which gives this story a more authentic feel. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult historical fiction. This is not a romance, or paranormal, but it is an entertaining look at Scotland during the 17th century.
  • (4/5)
    The Betrayal of Maggie Blair is a Christian historical fiction novel that was inspired by family research. Certain extra characters in the story derive from actual people connected with the author's family and include historical details discovered at the location. The most fascinating is knowing Hugh Blair was an actual historical person. The journey begins and ends with Maggie. Given my own experience with tracing my family tree, I can appreciate the journey a person goes on and the self discovery and connections ancestral research provides. A sense of self, ownership and independence is often gained through finding out who and what came before us. I liked the different prospectives of faith presented: strength, doubt and ignorance. Whether it is 1680 or 2011, people all around the world can relate to this timeless struggle.Towards the end of the story Maggie contemplates, "Which was the worse fate? Banishment and slavery, or shame?" For me this was the most important over all question and the moral of the story. For Hugh Blair it is likely shame, for Maggie and those accused of witchcraft one might argue death and banishment and for Tam, perhaps, being enslaved since he was a wandered. Then, again at some stage of the journey Maggie must face all three and overcome it. Recommend to readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction and young adult historical fiction (PG). Clean read.The blurb claims the book has a, 'powerful blend of heart-stopping action..." I would say this is a reach on the publishers part and is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of what a reader will experience between the pages. When broken down, what the character goes through is extraordinary, but it is told in a kind of Scottish gray that clings with despair even to the most thrilling parts, dampening the possible suspense that might be generated. However, I believe the tone and voice is thematically well-depicted, I just do not think it is agreeable with the blurb statement presented in the synopsis. I'm afraid it might mislead some readers who are seeking a more excitable tale or thrill and evoke negative feedback. This is more a long historical meandering than a coaster of adventure.
  • (5/5)
    If you were accused of being a witch, what would you do? Where would you go? For teenager Maggie Blair, the only option is to travel to the farm of her uncle and aunt who she has never met, and hope that they will be kind enough to take in an accused witch. Set in 1600’s Scotland, Elizabeth Laird’s The Betrayal of Maggie Blair follows its heroine as she goes from living as a persecuted witch, to living as a persecuted covenanter with her gracious aunt and uncle. Maggie never guessed that when she escaped death--after being condemned as a witch along with her grandmother—that she would wind up living with the family of her deceased father’s brother, who was a strong protestant opposed to the religious laws placed on Scotland by the English king. Even more than that, Maggie never dreamed that she would be so accepted, loved, and even admired by her family after telling them her story. But what will happen when the king’s soldiers discover that Maggie’s new family is hiding a protestant preacher known for his stance against the king? Chock full of historical references and descriptions of the beautiful Scottish countryside, The Betrayal of Maggie Blair depicts a time when superstitions and prejudices ran rampant and religion was at the forefront of all minds. There is no actual witchcraft in this book, just as there was not for the many women who were accused of the crime during the 1600’s. Instead, readers get a true sense of how terrifying it must have been to realize that no matter how innocent you were, nothing mattered but the opinion and, often times, lies of the crowd. There is so much suspense leading up to Maggie’s witch trial and the eve of her scheduled execution that the book feels like it should not go on. However, after a couple of slow-paced pages, the pace quickly picks back up and readers get to follow Maggie as she matures and jumps from the frying pan into the fire. Recommended for grades 7 and up.
  • (5/5)
    Maggie Blair is accused of being a witch. If it was the 21st century all would be fine in the world, but in 17th century Scotland that accusation can bring imprisonment and most often death. Even if she does escape, her family and their Presbyterian faith will lead her to the same fate. Maggie faces many tough decisions in the course of these pages and none of the choices can lead to good....or can they?Words can't explain how I felt about this book. This book is well....awe inspiring. With all of the paranormal books available for teens out there, I thought this would be another vampire/undead sort of book. I was wrong! This is the history they don't normally teach about in school or in church. Although it was a little slow at first, it really picked up around page 30 and I couldn't put it down. A word of warning for tender hearted, there is a little blood, not so detailed but I could definitely imagine what was seen, heard and smelled. This book has so many realistic scenes that it came to no surprise that the author, Ms. Laird, actually has a real link with the characters in her genealogy. As with many well written suspenseful books, this one kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering just how we got to this point and how were we going to get out. Ms. Laird who is actually an author from the U.K. has many young adult books on her wall of fame. I, unfortunately, have never read any. That will soon be remedied! She loves to travel and has traveled quite extensively throughout her life and those travels figure quite widely into her books (she was even once chased by a rhino). She has a website and a blog so you can find out even more about this very talented author.This book gets a 7 out of 7 thumbs up from me, but a word of warning for those who squirm at the thoughts of injustice done to those who deserve far better.
  • (5/5)
    Maggie lived with her Grandmother in a Scottish village in the 17th century. Accused of being a witch, Maggie escapes to her Uncle's home only to be followed by her own accuser... and then betrayed by them. After an old friend visits Maggie decides to find her Uncle and bring him home, risking her own life in the process...I loved this book. I like it when a book is historically accurate and quite a few of the characters and places were real and Elizabeth Laird's own ancestors, so there's a unique personal touch in there too. The story is well plotted and suspenseful in all the right places, and sad in all the right places too. Maggie Blair is a heroine that, when it ends, I was sad to let go. The other characters in the book are equally excellent, even the spiteful Annie, whose fate is really quick shocking.One strange thing though: there's a scene where Maggie is hiding with some cattle herders who are helping her to get to her Uncle's house. One of them offers her money to cure his earache and she refuses, much to his dissapointment. Later on though when she's half asleep she mutters some words (not realising that she's doing this) that she'd heard her Grandmother use and his earache is miraculously cured the next day. That's the closest you get to true witchcraft. I figured maybe she'd use 'spells' more often after that but no...