Sunday, December 09, 2007

Enter Three Witches

I’ve never been a huge fan of Caroline B. Cooney’s, but her latest book entertained me so much I might have to rethink my opinion. In Enter Three Witches Cooney re-tells the tale of Macbeth from the point of view of servants, ladies-in-waiting, and the sons of lesser lords. At first I found the switches in point of view abrupt and unsettling—they were rather bumpy transitions—but after awhile they either got smoother or I was so involved in the story I just got used to it.

Plot has always been Caroline B. Cooney’s major strength, and here she really couldn’t go wrong. Since she’s basing everything off one of the most brilliant stories in the English language you know the story is great. On top of it, Cooney makes a new plot featuring Lady Mary, daughter of a murdered traitor, and Fleance, son of Banquo. After her father is executed by the very people who give Mary a roof over her head, Mary fears she that she too will be hanged. But as it turns out, she still owns land and instead becomes a much sought after match—though marriage might be just as bad as dying considering that her main suitor is Seyton, a man of violence and small heart. Fleance has strong feelings for Mary, but his hopes of wooing her are dashed when Seyton tells everyone that Fleance killed Lady Mary’s original fiancé (also a traitor) in battle. In truth, Seyton gave the death blow. Around the edges of this plot line, we see the stories of Ildred, unhappy lady-in-waiting to Lady Macbeth, and Swin, kitchen servant and thief. Both women have secrets they’ve been keeping, and if these secrets come to light, it could mean death for each of them. These tales join the well-known story of Macbeth as all comes to a climax with the English troops approaching from Birnam Wood.

Death looms around every corner for every person in this story. This makes for intense conflict and nail-biting tension. Once invested in the characters, it was difficult not to worry about them. Although I knew how the tale of Macbeth would end, I had no idea what would happen to Mary, Fleance, Ildred or Swin. I had to find out, and I found the ending very satisfactory though I won’t reveal it here.

It’s hard for me to judge what a reader would make of this book without reading Macbeth first. It feels like Cooney explains things well, but I can’t be objective since Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play, and I know it’s plot very well. Would this even be of interest to someone who hasn’t read the play? It is definitely a good story, so perhaps it would. It would also make a nice companion piece for a student reading the play for the first time.

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