The bonds among young women working at the mill in Lowell, Mass., are strengthened by a little witchcraft in this touching, fable-like historical fantasy.
The Factory Witches of Lowell by C.S. Malerich (Fire & Locket) has a simple but intriguing premise: increased costs for their board are the last straw for the young women working in the historic mill town. Their leader, Judith, turns for support to Hannah, who has a talent for witchcraft, in order to bind the workers to their promise to strike until their demands are met. As the strike drags on, the owners search for strike breakers and Hannah's health declines from years of working in unsafe conditions. Judith and Hannah must invent new ways to wield magic to shift the balance of power toward the striking workers, while also coming to recognize their feelings for each other.
This is a slight but thoroughly enjoyable book. There are hints at how magic works in the world on a larger scale, and how it is used to bind enslaved people on the auction block, but the attention remains focused on this strike and these two women. With underdogs fighting for their fair share and the beginnings of young love, this is an adult fairy tale that literally presents the mystical way in which women's work and power have often been portrayed throughout history. Malerich could easily tell stories in this world on a broader scale, but the glimpse readers get of it here is a treat. --Kristen Allen-Vogel, information services librarian at Dayton Metro Library