These are upsetting tales and Schiff writes movingly as well as wittily; this is a work of riveting storytelling as well as an authoritative history. Schiff’s explanations for the events are convincing.
Schiff weeds out popular myths and misconceptions of Salem to tell readers, in painstaking detail and while referencing a huge cast of characters, how the wretched events of 1692 unfolded. The result is a spellbinding work of nonfiction that reads like a thriller with Harry Potter-esque flourishes: monstrous wild hogs, people disguised as cats, cats disguised as toads, muttered incantations, and flying objects aimed at enemies.
Schiff’s glib, compendious and often maddening account of the events of that fateful year, does a great deal to punch up the story, but little to explore and still less to understand its significance....Schiff here broadens her lens, like an artist turning from portraits to teeming allegories: Rembrandt taking up the work of Bosch. But a crowded canvas does not a probing history make, as The Witches powerfully demonstrates.