Goddess Born by Kari Edgren

Goddess Born by Kari Edgren(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Pennsylvania, 1730

Selah Kilbrid keeps a dangerous secret: she has the power to heal.

A direct descendent of the Celtic goddess Brigid, it’s Selah’s sacred duty to help those in need. But as the last of the Goddess Born living in the New World, she learned from an early age to keep her supernatural abilities hidden. The Quaker community of Hopewell has always been welcoming, but there’s no doubt they would see her hanged if her gift was revealed.

When a prominent minister threatens to try her with witchcraft unless she becomes his wife, Selah has only one hope–that her betrothed, a distant cousin from Ireland, arrives as planned. Marrying Samuel would keep her secret safe, preserve her sacred bloodline, and protect her from being charged as a witch.

But when news of Samuel’s death reaches the Colonies, Selah is truly on her own. Terrified, she faces an impossible choice–forfeit her powers and marry the loathsome Nathan? Or find an imposter to pose as her husband and preserve her birthright?

[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook in conjunction with the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]

From the blurb, I had pretty high expectations about Goddess Born.  Not only that, it came highly recommended to me from a friend/colleague!  So you could say Kari Edgren’s book had a lot to live up to.  As it turns out, Goddess Born would far exceed my high expectations.  The characters were excellent, the world-building was fantastic and Kari Edgren brought the early Colonies to life.

First off, the characters were excellent.  Selah in reality, had a horrible decision to make when she learned of her cousin’s death.  Her father is dead so there’s no man to protect her from the law and Nathan’s wrath.  Her only hope is to marry her cousin, who’s dead.  But nobody in Hopewell knows that, do they?  So she embarks on a long, arduous and sometimes funny journey when she marries Henry, an indentured servant set to play the role of her cousin.  I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that yes, of course Henry and Selah are going to develop feelings for each other, but I also have to say that those feelings were far from Insta-Love.  In fact, it was almost Insta-Hate for a while there.

Both Selah and Henry stand out for me as characters.  They both have complicated histories behind the circumstances that found them married and neither one is really keen to divulge their past to the other.  At the same time, it’s obvious that both of them feel for the other’s plight.  Selah doesn’t like forcing Henry into a marriage just to save her own skin and Henry doesn’t like the fact that he’s the only one standing between Selah and Nathan’s considerable wrath.  He feels for Selah and she for him, but of course things are always more complicated than that.

As for the magic of Selah’s line, I think it was pretty well thought out.  It comes from the Celtic goddess Brigid and puts a lot of strain on its possessors.  They have the power of life and death over medical matters, so you really have to appreciate the fact that Selah is a good person who would never hurt anyone, even her own worst enemy.  Power like that can become heady and change people, but Selah is the sweet and level-headed young woman that she always has been.  What I really liked about the fact of Selah’s power is that she does run out and she does have to do a complicated ritual to renew it by going to the Otherworld.  Maintaining her power is not easy and adds another layer of conflict, rather than like in most stories where the power is never-ending and/or naturally replenishes itself.

I have to say that I also loved both the descriptions of the time as well as the pacing of the plot.  Kari Edgren really made me feel like I was in Pennsylvania in 1730, even though obviously I haven’t and I’ve never even studied that period of history.  I can’t vouch for authenticity in her descriptions but I do know that her writing really makes you feel like you’re in the period.  Sometimes that’s almost better than being accurate and boring.  The pacing, however, doesn’t allow for boredom.  It starts out a little slow at first, but quickly we have Selah’s life spiraling out of control as Nathan makes his ultimatum, her father dies, she learns her cousin dies and she marries an indentured servant to pose as him.  There is no such thing as a boring moment in Goddess Born.

So, at the end of all this, I don’t have anything but praise for this book.  It came highly recommended and exceeded my expectations.  It was fast-paced, felt historically authentic and the characters were amazing.  I can’t recommend it enough and even if you’re not necessarily a big reader of historical fiction, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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