The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland


Set in the 1300’s, a beautiful, wealthy widow comes to the small town of Lincoln with her children, shadowed by a mysterious one-handed man. When she starts up a friendship with a wealthy merchant, she soon worms her way into his heart, and as his wife starts to sicken, tongues start to wag. Is this woman using witchcraft to get her own way? Are her children as innocent as they seem? Set against the Peasant revolt, this book uses history excellently to show the divide between the rich and the poor, the lords and the peasants, and how poor the lot of women and the worker was in that era.

The story flows really well, and the author evokes a sense of time and place brilliantly, drawing you into the dark world of the era. You can’t help but sympathise with the characters struggling to survive the times and conditions they find themselves in. The subtle use of dark magic throughout is cleverly in line with the beliefs of the time, and leaves you with an eery feeling.

This is the first book that I’ve read by Karen Maitland, and I can see why she is so popular. She writes beautifully, and creates an excellent plot that keeps you turning pages. The historical settings are so well researched, it’s really fascinating to read. I guessed the ending of this book almost from the start, I’m not sure whether it was meant to be a twist in the end or not, but I don’t think it really matters, I was enjoying the twists as they were revealed to the characters more than anything. It’s a bit of a dark read, with ghosts, witchcraft, and horrible historical facts as well as the odd murder.

Read it if: You’re looking for something spooky to read this Hallowe’en, or if you love historical fiction and ghost stories.

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