Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Vanishing Witch - Karen Maitland - Guest Book Review

Published by Headline

Guest book review by Lisa Weir

Wow!  Just....WOW!!

A riveting, page-turning whopper of a book that had me captivated – in fact, positively bewitched – from the start.  Blending history, superstition, folklore, murder, mystery and witchcraft sublimely, this book is an absolute must-read for fans of historical fiction.

Set in Lincolnshire in 1380, we are swept away to the time of King Richard II, when, led by his advisor John of Gaunt, he raises taxes to an all time high; a price that the majority of peasants cannot pay leading to the infamous peasant’s revolt.

One such peasant is river boatman Gunter, struggling to pay not just the new taxes but the rents owed by him to rich landowner and wool merchant Robert of Bassingham.

Robert has his own problems with his cargoes going missing, losing him money but fortunately he has the friendship of a new widow to appease him; Mistress Catlin is as divine a specimen of womankind as ever there was and Robert becomes enchanted with the young widow, a welcome change from his scold of a wife but when his wife passes away and he takes Catlin to be his new bride, things don’t go as well as he would have wished in his new little family as jealousy and suspicion between servants and sons abound.

And who is the mysterious friar seen following the players of this novel?  What part has he to play in the bad luck and woes that befall Robert one after the other?

As the peasants struggle and eventually lead a rebellion that has seen no precedent and as Robert gradually loses control of all he holds dear, the reader becomes enmeshed in a world that comes alive in with the medieval superstition, the fear of witchcraft and the plain cruelty and greed that renders the rich richer and the poor poorer in these squalid and fearful times. 

I was utterly lost in this medieval world; each chapter is headed by a spell, charm or ancient lore which fascinated me; the author’s knowledge of the true facts of the Peasant’s Revolt and of ancient folklore are woven together so brilliantly they lend a magical and mysterious element to the story as the reader is tantalized by the puzzling events surrounding the characters and tries to work out whether witchcraft is indeed at work or if it is just the exaggerated workings of our brains throwing us off the real scent.....It might be a big read but it’s a read that will have you spellbound and leave you 100 per cent satisfied. 

Huge thanks to Lisa for reading and reviewing this novel for The Little Reader Library! Lisa blogs at The Book Addicted Housewife, do visit her fab book blog too!

Read an interview with the author on JaffaReadsToo blog.


  1. The 14th century was such an interesting period that I wish I knew more about. The plot also sounds very engaging.

    This seems well worth the read.

  2. Away to add this to my wish list. I loved her The Owl Killers and reading this review I'm sure I'd love this just as much.

  3. This one sounds fantastic. Just added to the mountainous tbr pile.


  4. I have this to read. Can't wait to get to it!!!!

  5. Lovely review Lisa – you got me at Wow! I always enjoy historical fiction, so this one has gone straight onto my must-read list.
    Thanks for sharing this guest post Lindsay.


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