Review: Father of Lies by Ann Warren Turner

Ann Warren Turner's website here // $10.59 from {amazon} 
Publisher: HarperTeen (February 8, 2011) 
Hardcover: 256 pages 
Truth or Lies?

Lidda knew, with a clarity that was like a candle in a dark room, that all had changed; something was loosed in the village—Devil or not—and they would pay for it, every last man, woman, and child.

Fourteen-year-old Lidda has always known she was different. She longs to escape Salem Village and its stifling rules—to be free to dance, to sing, to live as she chooses. But when a plague of accusations descends on the village and witch fever erupts, Lidda begins to realize that she feels and sees things that others can't, or won't. But how will she expose the truth without being hung as a witch herself?

Gripping and emotional, Ann Turner's retelling of the Salem witch trials captures one girl's brave soul-searching amidst a backdrop of fear and blame.

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts:  
An unfortunate girl caught in a tumultuous time, Lidda is an “appalling” nonconformist in a time where women are expected to submit everything to their husbands and to society. Triple that with an at-the-time unknown mental illness and mass prosecution, and you find one very compelling premise in Father of Lies.

While I highly esteem Ann Turner’s creativity, I feel this small book of a little over 200 pages just wasn't enough to capture the full potential of bipolar disorder and the Salem witch trials. When I think of the Salem, I envision unbridled hysteria, insane little girls, and many jabbing fingers. While Father of Lies remains true to all of the above, the intensity level was taken down a notch; Lidda continually states that the town was crazy, but I failed to see enough of the town actually being so. Misguided, perhaps, but not “SALEM, THERE ARE FREAKING WITCHES AMONG US” hysterical. And I think a large contributor to that not-quite-hysteria was Lidda’s bipolar disorder. The story alternates between Lidda’s experiences of internal and external craziness, which, while interesting, made me feel torn between the two; just when I would start to get into the Salem trials, the focus would switch back to Lidda's internal struggle. As a whole, the story just felt rather slow and extremely linear: A, then B, and thus C, no surprises to be had. The action only really kicks up at the end, and it wrapped up just as I started getting really into it. 

Yet my main issue is character. Father of Lies is narrated in third person, though it concentrates on Lidda. Despite that, I can sum Lidda and everyone else up in one or, at most, a couple words: obedient, envious, desperate, [insert characterization here]. The relationship between Lucian and Lidda had me wondering, but everyone else seemed to simply fit their role in the course of the trials. If you're an accuser, you're an attention-seeking girl and nothing more. With such a strong subject area, I can see that character may not be the strong point, but I’d prefer it to be like the lone girl in red [Wikipedia] in Schindler’s List; I like to get personal, and that just didn’t happen here. Yes, I could relate to Lidda’s independence and idealism and admire her continued strength, but she simply failed to come off the page for me.

All negativity aside, I still enjoyed Father of Lies. In the author’s note, Turner emphasizes how historically accurate parts of the book are, and I could definitely tell. That accuracy didn’t exactly endear the book to me, but at least I can see why the Salem portion of the plot may seem formulaic and appreciate the in-depth research that went into this book. And in retrospect, considering the circumstances, I think the bipolar disorder was done very well. It was intriguing, unique, and mystifying, and I could really sense Lidda’s struggle, even if I didn't feel that strongly for her.

Of course, after mentioning my main issue, I have to mention my favorite aspect as well: the writing. It consists of beautiful, powerful imagery, perfectly matching Lidda’s singularity and adding to the authenticity of the time period. Loved it. 
Once she was outside the dark room, Lidda flung back the hated gray hood, pretending she wore a bright scarlet cloak instead, and danced down the frozen path with no one to see, holding her hands out to the light.

Romance: Nothing really.
Cover: 3.0 -- The girl and text are both very, very pretty, but the whole huge-face-on-cover thing is quite generic.

Bottom Line: Father of Lies is a book that falls flat for me in terms of character and plot-line. However, the vivid writing flawlessly complements the dark nature of the concepts being explored, with the premise and  writing mostly filling in other areas I found lacking. Overall, I'd recommend Father of Lies to historical fiction fans, especially if you're interested in the Salem witch trials. And I again applaud Ann Turner on her willingness to tackle two such intense topics, combining them into a very question-provoking, very unique read.