Fiction Book Reviews

A Gloriously Dark Read : The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

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I have a confession to make … after reading all those Christmas romances I was in need of something different so browsing my bookshelves, I came across a proof copy of The Vanishing Witch.  I can only think that it was the size (608 pages) that put me off at the time.  Perfect reading material for the lead up to the end of term though.  Dark and windy nights lending the atmosphere towards what unfolds in the story …

The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland


Paperback: 608 pages

Publisher: Headline Review (12 Mar. 2015)

ISBN-10: 1472215036

ISBN-13: 978-1472215031

By the pricking of my thumbs …

Lincoln, 1380. A raven-haired widow is newly arrived in John of Gaunt’s city, with her two unnaturally beautiful children in tow.

The widow Catlin seems kind, helping wool merchant Robert of Bassingham care for his ill wife. Surely it makes sense for Catlin and her family to move into Robert’s home?

But when first Robert’s wife – and then others – start dying unnatural deaths, the whispers turn to witchcraft. The reign of Richard II brings bloody revolution, but does it also give shelter to the black arts?

And which is more deadly for the innocents of Lincoln?


I enjoy historical and paranormal novels so finding both genres in one story was always going to draw me in.  The balance between the mundane and the witchcraft was just right ensuring I was intrigued enough to keep turning those pages while becoming a part of the story myself.

Robert of Bassingham, newly elected master to the Guild of Merchants, looks out of the Guildhall and sees a woman wearing clothes made from the finest cloth and so his fate is sealed.  Mistress Caitlin is not all she appears to be and weaves her way into Robert and his wife Edith’s life.  In Greetwell we follow Gunter as he punts his deliveries and tries to be a protector for his family.  There’s another narration that intrigued me (I didn’t guess the link!) and an ambiguous figure who keeps turning up.  Beta’s narration (Robert’s maid) was really interesting too.

I loved the history – the Flemish, poll tax, the uprisings.  Everything felt very authentic and engaged my imagination.  In my proof copy the author has added historical notes (and a glossary) which readers may find useful.

The witchery made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  The weather and settings add to the ‘darkness’ and there are quite a few scenes that had my pulse racing.  I loved the weather-lore and anti-witchcraft spells at the start of the months/chapters.  Some I had heard of but most were new to me.

The Vanishing Witch was almost a keeper for me.  I had worked out one particular relationship and so those scenes didn’t hold the same curiosity as they would have done.  It’s a gloriously dark read in a world where although a totally different place than today still has the same emotions.  I can guarantee you will identify with the characters.  One for your wish list.

Rating System
Recommended Read

I would like to thank the publishers for providing a proof copy in exchange for an honest review.

Connect with Karen Maitland



I've been blogging about my interests at Jera's Jamboree for 8+ years. My love of reading, crocheting and being out in nature are all things that help me unwind from my role as an Inclusion Lead in a primary school. I'm passionate about early help and sharing strategies with families to empower and help build resilience. I'm a member of of my Local Authority's Early Help Operational Board, working alongside other professionals to instigate change and growth.

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