The Last Balfour

Cait Duggan

The Last Balfour
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The Last Balfour

Cait Duggan

Magic and fire are kindred things …

Iona Balfour’s life is turned upside down when her beloved aunt Grizel is executed for the crime of witchcraft. Before she dies, Grizel appoints Iona as guardian of a precious family bloodstone and tells her she must flee their village and deliver the stone to the mysterious Guild of the Green Lion.

Accompanied by a new friend, Cal, Iona soon realises that she’s awakened the powers of the bloodstone. But it promises to be a perilous journey. The wolf month is no time to be on the road. And there’s a witch hunter on Iona’s trail, who has a strange obsession with the stone.

When a devastating betrayal throws her into the hands of her enemies, Iona soon finds herself in the fight of her life. Will she suffer the same fate as her aunt, or will she escape the witch hunter and fulfil her destiny?


I do love a good witch story: there’s something exhilarating about a young woman drawing on an unknown mystical force and discovering her potential. This story surges at a breathless pace and is unrelenting in its emotional grasp. There’s the mystery in harnessing the forces of the natural world and herbal lore for good, the intrigue in the swirling supernatural, the fear in a perilous journey and the despair at the ultimate betrayal of friendship.

Drawing from a rich source of Scottish history and folklore and peppered with Scottish dialect, The Last Balfour instills a deep realism that transports the reader to the sixteenth century. It was a time when witchcraft was considered the scourge of the age, something evil to be stamped out; a time when capable, independent women were regarded with suspicion; when women were at the mercy of men.

It’s in this climate of superstition and paranoia that Iona Balfour loses loved ones in violent trauma; grieving and defenseless, she must seek a magical stone and escape to Edinburgh before the witch hunters catch her. It’s during this perilous journey that our vulnerable protagonist finds friendship and courage, and also discovers her hidden power and true self.

This is a remarkable debut novel with a surprising ending that had me completely enthralled. I’m desperately waiting for the sequel. Highly recommend for readers 14+ who enjoy a taut, nail-biting adventure; lovers of historical fiction are definitely in for a treat.

Athina Clarke is the children’s book buyer at Readings Malvern.

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