Book Project Review: The Third Witch by Rebecca Reisert
Summary: In this stirring debut novel, Rebecca Reisert enters the world of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which a young woman’s search for vengeance plunges her into a legendary tale of deceit, murder, and retribution….I have made my life an arrow, and His heart is my home. I have made my life a blade, and His heart is my sheath….So pledges Gilly, vowing to destroy Macbeth, the most powerful man in medieval Scotland. She escapes from the hut in Birnam Wood in which she has lived for the past seven years, ever since she was taken in by Nettle and Mad Helga — wise women whose powers are widely feared and reviled. Disguising herself as a servant boy, Gilly finds work in the kitchen of her enemy’s castle. Soon she insinuates herself into the lives of Macbeth and his beautiful, dangerous wife, subtly manipulating the forces governing their fate. But as Gilly moves closer to her private revenge, she finds herself at risk when she confronts the startling legacy of a long-concealed heritage.
First and foremost, I love Macbeth. It was the first Shakespeare play I had read, back in the eighth grade, and then re-read it again in my ninth-grade English class. We even had to write our own added scene(s) to the play as a writing assignment, while attempting to use Shakespearean language. Last year for my birthday, Josh and I saw Patrick Stewart (yes, Mr. Jean-Luc Piccard, Professor X) play Macbeth in a stage version of the play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It made me love Macbeth even more. Normally, I am not a fan of modernizations of plays like that, especially on the stage, but that production took the cake. It was incredible. But moving on (book four in my book-reading project)….
What a unique take on the play. The author took the story and made it her own, without destroying the fabric of the original play. It is not a retelling, but rather a different perspective. Gilly is quite the determined character and the mystery surrounding her being an orphan does get explained. Macbeth and all the major characters are like supporting characters here, unlike in the play, which works really well because it gives you an idea that maybe, just maybe, the three witches and their prophecies weren’t all that magical. Maybe Macbeth didn’t really see Banquo’s ghost? How did Fleance manage to flee while his own father was being murdered? How did the witches come up with those prophecies? And what was the true cause of Lady Macbeth’s madness at the end? All this is handled so wonderfully by the author that it truly gives you a different way of looking at what happens in the play. I don’t want to overwhelm this post with a summary because this is truly a book that you have to read to see how the author answers these questions for you.
Plus, there are numerous other characters, not just the ones you meet in the original play, characters that have a hand in shaping Gilly’s character and destiny, and ultimately by doing so, Macbeth’s. These characters are developed so nicely that you almost tend to forget about Macbeth or Lady Macbeth and what they are doing. The author does give more depth to Macbeth’s character here in the book than in the play; in the play I thought his character was a bit too reliant on Lady Macbeth, but here, there is a balance between his own personal desires and Lady Macbeth’s, which in turn completes the Macbeth character/personality a bit more.
The one hindrance in the book was a part of Gilly’s character: her desperate need for revenge. At the end, you understand her desire for revenge but I felt there was too much of it. It got a bit annoying at times to hear her yell at Nettle and Mad Helga to help her. She was too impatient for my taste, which ultimately leads to various subsequent events. Gilly is the driving force in this book, and she doesn’t have any clue how she is able to influence people and the different happenings, which is great for the reader to read and see how it is played out.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone eho enjoys Macbeth, Shakespeare, or just a good darn story with characters that truly live inside the pages.