Review | The Vanishing Witch – Karen Maitland


Paperback (Headline Review, 480 pages)

(Proof copy, 688 pages)

To be published August 2014

Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars

“Take one wealthy merchant. Add one charming widow. And one dying wife.

The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It’s a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust?

The dour wool merchant?

His impulsive son?

The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes?

Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?

And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it’s time to fight back, it’s all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.”

I liked this. I liked this book a lot.

I’ll start by saying that I was given a proof copy to review by the lovely people at Bookbridgr and Headline Review – and, being a lover of historical fiction (and a medieval history student), I was only too happy to do so.

And it did not disappoint. Although it was slow to start, and I was a little clueless as to what was going on in the beginning, it soon became apparent. The plot of The Vanishing Witch gradually reveals itself rather than unfolding all at once, allowing the reader to savour it. It is infused with witchcraft and the dark supernatural, with characters so multi-faceted that you don’t quite know who to trust – I certainly made mistakes in trusting the wrong characters as I read further on!

The historical setting is lush, richly described, providing a detailed backdrop for the story, and I honestly now have a desire to visit Lincoln because of this novel. I’ve always been intrigued by old medieval towns – and Lincoln has added itself to the list.

The characterisation of each player in this plot is done extremely well, so much so that I’m going to have to read the book again to figure out the early signs and see if there are any forewarnings in their acts that I might have missed before. I’m certainly keen to do so. I think my favourite characters have to be Leonia and Edward – and if you read this book (which you definitely should), you’ll soon understand why. I should mention a soft spot for Hankin, too, and his family’s plight. My heart really did wrench for them.

All in all, a wonderful novel. If you’re a medieval history lover like myself, it should be on your list to read. If you like historical novels with added twists, it should be on your list to read.

Just put it on your list to read. You won’t regret it at all.



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