top of page

HFC Editorial Review of "Lucifer's Mistress" by K. Z. Owens

Book Buy Link:

Editorial Review:

There is no denying that 'Lucifer's Mistress'' by K.Z. Owens is an extraordinary piece of work. It is a lush description of the young colony of Massachusetts on the very cusp of the seventeenth Century. The settlements, of course, are very new and seeking to establish a strong identity; a 'New Jerusalem' founded on the principles of Godliness and Righteousness and through the strong leadership of the true Church. In the growing settlement of Boston such fundamentalist views exist cheek by jowl with the spirit of the Scientific Revolution of that age; a growth of knowledge based on observation and carefully noted facts - Locke and Spinoza to challenge philosophical notions and the likes of Newton, Boyle and Hooke to challenge elemental facts. This is, in fact, one of the principal themes of the book - the reconciliation of Science and belief and, in particular, the proving of the existence of witchcraft and the inherent dangers to the soul and salvation. This was an overwhelming preoccupation to the Colonists with the Witch hunts and trials of Salem still a very recent memory, and very raw. To add to this mix was the real fear of Indian attacks on the new Colonies, with French assistance. What if Satan and the forces of darkness recruited and unleashed the forces of evil upon the small community? A vision directly from the Book of Revelations - the 'Scarlet Woman' of Hell allied to an army recruited by Hell - ''the Devil's plan to destroy New Jerusalem'', combining reminiscent classics such as The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible.

''Lucifer's Mistress', however, is also a gripping adventure story involving an exciting search for the buried treasure of Captain Kidd, a search for spiritual redemption, a witch hunt and a love story. This combination is blended to form a thoughtful and highly readable novel, and the reading of it requires concentration and attention. The main protagonist is a certain Isaac Hill, fit and active through his life on the very fringe of the settlement. He is a man for whom the quote from the book of John contained on the front cover could have been specifically written:' 'He that commiteth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.'' For Isaa is a deeply flawed person carrying many scars, both emotional and physical, from his life to date. He is happiest upon the frontier, happiest in the deep forests where his beloved sister, Sarah, taught him to recognise the spirits - fallen angels who had then rebelled from Satan and granted sanctuary in the wild by God. He is summoned to Boston ['The City upon the Hill' - a reference to Jerusalem], a place he loathes, not least because it was the scene of his sister's murder by religious bigots enraged by her criticisms of the beliefs and enactments of the Council of the time. His brother-in-law, Jacob Reading, is a prosperous and well placed member of society, a logger with a particular interest in the superb white pines of the area of Long Pond since he acquired a highly lucrative business deal with the Prussian government for the providing of high quality timber for its Navy.

There is, unfortunately, a snag. At Long Pond there is a mysterious woman, a supposed Witch, there are stories of buried treasure and a mystery of three unsolved murders for which she is held accountable through the forces of evil. For Reading's scheme to succeed, the Witch must be persuaded to leave to avoid further speculation and attention to the area. Already an 'Expedition' is assembled. led by the truly odious and repellent Edward Sharpe, a religious bigot and zealot ''par excellence'',to try and prosecute and, ultimately, execute this woman. Other members of the Expedition include a rational and scientific physician and a military man aware of stories of a mysterious Indian and of rumours of an impending Indian attack. It is for the task of removing this woman before the arrival of the expedition and any embarrassing investigations that may ensue that Isaac Hill is offered a very attractive sum of money. The whole of the story and its' highly complicated plot evolves around these facts.

Throughout the book there are examples of the Author's meticulous research into the literature and the prevailing opinions and attitudes of the time. Early on, the zealous bigot, Edward Sharpe, the aspiring 'Witchfinder General' and the 'sceptic' scientifically minded physician, Roger Dillingham, discuss and attempt to reconcile the nature of science and popular religious belief: ''Armed with both faith and modern methods of scientific inquiry we might be able to prove beyond all doubt and for all time, the witch is real.''

And, again, a breathtakingly simple reconciliation of the two: ''Law and science tempered by faith. Faith sets the first proposition: God exists. With him are angels, a third of whom have fallen. Science provides the tools that will enable us to see into Realms, both above and below, to see which we were previously blind, where proof of the first proposition will be found.'' In other words, a proof of God through scientific means also, logically, provides proof of Satan and of evil; a tangible threat to the survival of the 'New Jerusalem' and of the eternal souls of men. The text is full of such arguments, clearly based on extensive study and research, expressed in highly believable and realistic dialogue, as it is also of references to contemporary theatre and literature, principally between the tortured being that is Isaac Hill and his mysterious lover, Felicity Brown.

And so the complicated plot progresses to highly surprising ends. It is complicated, thoughtful, and thought provoking, containing moving insights into the principal characters and personalities and their motivations along with lush descriptions of a virgin forest and an exciting story line.

''Lucifer's Mistress'' is a rich and successful combination of many things. It is a delight to seek out the truths it contains. Lest the reader of the early twenty first century take a condescending view of these people, there is this gem of relatability resonating into our time: ''In Salem was another lesson, an energised minority will overpower a lethargic majority only so long as the fear does not flame out. The fire, once lit, must be carefully stoked so it grows slowly and burns evenly.''


"Lucifer's Mistress" by K. Z. Owens is awarded five stars and the "Highly Recommended" award by The Historical Fiction Company


bottom of page