Jennet Stern is the daughter of the Witchfinder General of England during the Restoration period. Her aunt Isobel is a brilliant intellectual who teaches Jennet about science and philosophy and whom Jennet adores. Due to he scientific pursuits and status as a single woman Isobel is accused of witchcraft and Jennet's father pursues a conviction successfully, causing a rift between him and his daughter.
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After her aunt is burnt at the stake, young Jennet makes it her life's work to overturn the Parliamentary Witchcraft Act of 1604 by proving that magic (and therefore witches) cannot exist. Because Isobel was gentry, the conviction does not sit well with the King of England and Jennet's father is sent to the American colonies to work as witchfinder there.
Jennet despairs at first as to how she will find the resources to educate herself and pursue her mission. The witchfinder is called in to help with the Salem witch trials and is success there leads him to start other witch hunts, to Jennet's dismay. But things take an unexpected turn when the small town they live in is attacked by Algonquin Nimacooks and Jennet is abducted.
Living among the Algonquin she settles into a routine for seven years, she weds and barely feels like a captive after a while. But when she goes into a trading town one day and sees a witch trial taking place she realizes that she must continue to pursue her original oath. She escapes from the Algonquin and returns to civilization. Jennet meets a young postmaster, marries him and begins writing her treatise against witchfinding, but the marriage doesn't last.
Single again she meets a fascinating man half her age named Ben Franklin and they begin a passionate affair that is also a meeting of intellectuals. When Franklin plans a trip to England Jennet decides to go with him, hoping for inspiration for her treatise which she is having trouble with.
In England she meets Isaac Newton and has an inspiration on how to finish the treatise. Excited, the couple return to America but their ship sinks along the way and they end up stranded on an island. She uses the time to continue her thinking on the treatise with Franklin's help, but worries that it will never see the light of day if they cannot escape the island. Eventually some pirates arrive at the island and the couple manage to board their ship and return to America on it.
Jennet arrives back in Philadelphia with a completed treatise and a bold plan; she will have herself put on trial and disprove witchcraft on record in a court of law.
Best part of story, including ending:
It's an interesting look at the world right between the superstitious era of magical thinking and the dawn of a more scientific mindset.
Best scene in story:
When Aunt Isobel is teaching young Jennet about light and the color spectrum, her love of knowledge is infectious and you can see why Jennet loves her so much.
Opinion about the main character:
She is determined and brilliant, and open minded enough to seize unlikely opportunities and thrive when others would fail.