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Judgment of the Witch: Speaks the Nightbird Vol. 1    by Robert McCammon order for
Judgment of the Witch
by Robert McCammon
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Many of the good citizens of Fount Royal in the colony of the Carolinas believe that devilry is afoot in their town and that a witch walks amongst them. There cannot be any other explanation when crops fail, fires destroy property, and grisly murders occur.

Half the citizens have already fled in terror, certain they're next to fall ill to whatever curse hangs over their heads. The town's founder, Robert Bidwell, is determined that no more townsfolk shall leave, and so has Rachel Howarth arrested for witchcraft after various witnesses swear to have seen her 'consorting' with the Devil. Believing she's entitled to a 'fair' trial, Bidwell sends to Charlestown for a Magistrate. Eventually, and after certain hardships along the way, a Magistrate and his young assistant arrive in Fount Royal, prepared to listen to all the evidence and then pass judgment on the witch.

Isaac Woodward has always considered himself a fair man and is proud of his young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Bidwell and the majority of the citizens are eager for a swift trial and even more eager to burn the witch, certain their lives will return to normal once Rachel Howarth pays the price for her evil indiscretions. Yet Woodward refuses to be pressured into a premature judgment and has every intention of hearing all the testimony and reaching his own conclusions. Within days of their arrival, the Magistrate is struck ill and soon it's up to the logical and astute young Matthew to find the truth. Is witchcraft truly afoot in Fount Royal or is someone using Rachel Howarth as a scapegoat to cover up something even more sinister?

Robert McCammon gave up writing a decade ago after his disillusionment at being pigeonholed as a horror writer and despite the fact that his last few books (especially Boy's Life and Gone South) clearly transcended the confining label of horror fiction. With Speaks the Nightbird : Judgment of the Witch, McCammon has proved what so many of his die-hard fans already knew, that he can write extremely well in any genre. McCammon has spun an intriguing and intricate historical mystery, rich in detail, atmosphere and imagery, and most of all, in character development. He provides clue after tantalizing clue yet never gives anything away.

Matthew is far and away the most intriguing character of the multitude that populate Judgment of the Witch. His meticulous quest for the truth and his single minded determination to help Rachel - when all evidence and testimony, and of course, superstitious fervor, would see her burn - will keep readers turning pages and eagerly anticipating Volume 2 -- Evil Unveiled, scheduled for October release.

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