Wray Hunt – Satan’s Daughter (Nel, Aug 1975. Originally Robert Hale, 1970)
“Shame, pain and power,” the gypsy said, “all three are yours – or nothing.”
Thus the gypsies told the fortune of little Alys, daughter of the vicious broom-maker of the Purbeck moors.
Alys kept this dream of her future to herself, to give her hope through the years of pain and starvation until she was old enough to run away and seek her fortune.
But the world was not kind to her, and she found that she had to be harsh, ruthless and cruel to achieve her ambitions. She was even willing to join a witches’ coven to practice their potions on the King, and so become his mistress. At last she had the power he had always sought, but at what cost to her eternal soul ..
Set during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509), its the story of Alys Hughes who lives with her vicious drunken slob of a father, Will the broom-maker, in a hovel on the outskirts of Studland village, Dorset. When she’s aged around fourteen, a gypsy tells her her destiny – “shame, pain, power – or nothing” – and Alys decides that “power” holds the most appeal and sets out to achieve it.
She befriends a hermit, Richard Hill, who teaches her to read and when her father beats her yet again after she’s been caught poaching, she runs off to live with the old guy. Richard isn’t having any of it and, having come over a touch hot and bothered when she attempts to seduce him, he passes her over to his former lover, Agnes Bartley, who is now the Mother Superior at Tarent Nunnery. Alys is a fast learner but she is not Religious material and embarks on several nocturnal escapades, having blackmailed her fellow novices into keeping quiet. Unfortunately crabby old Str. Joan catches her indulging in some rough and tumble with a local lad, and Alys is beaten in front of the entire Convent. To avenge herself, Alys writes a curse in blood and nails it to Str. Joan’s bed then desecrates and burns down a church. As the building collapses, her nemesis is crushed under falling masonry.
Alys heads back to the moors and Richard, only to learn that the hermit has been tarred and feathered and his hut destroyed by some boozed up peasants from The Grey Nag led by her father. Furious, she throws in her lot with old Jonet Drew and her cackling coven. As we leave her for the time being she’s just pledged herself to Satan, and she’s about to witness her first Sabbat.
To date Satan’s Daughter reads like an attempt at Gothic revival crossed with one of those cautionary ‘non-fiction’ survivor books from the ‘seventies (ie, Dorothy Irvine’s From Witchcraft To Christ although the cover suggests Alys is unlikely to find salvation. Bonus points for the cod-medieval dialogue which allows several characters to get in some quality cussing – “Rot me!”, “Vermin blast them!” and the wonderful “Shog off!”
There’s also lots of threatening to do something nasty to somebody’s “gizzards”.
I’m making slow progress. Nothing to do with the book – its very enjoyable in a Ronald Holmes: Witchfinder General way. The Sabbat went well. Alys got in some quality hanky panky with Satan (or perhaps it was somebody dressed up), and now she’s been taken on by Lady Jane Deane, mother of the pretender Perkin Warbeck who was hung along with the Earl of Warbeck for conspiracy (fact). It transpires that Lady Jane dug up her son post-execution and one of Alys first tests is to kiss his rotting face (possibly not fact). Now she’s at the centre of a plot versus Henry VII and has been put into total seduction training. With Alys having effortlessly secured a position as Harry the Bastard’s latest “pleasure wench” and confidante, Lady Jane and her cackling coven reveal the finer details of their outrageous plot: Once Alys has poisoned Henry, John de la Pole, a numbskull descendent of Edward III, will be installed as John II, a puppet Ruler with the Satanists pulling his strings. One more Black Mass – with Alys serving as the Altar – should do the trick …..
It’s not the NEL of Lory and Aubin, that’s for sure, but provided you’ve the patience with the archaic dialogue, there’s plenty to recommend Satan’s Daughter.