(Book 1 of The Widdershins Trilogy)

England, 1649. A vengeful witch hunter. An innocent midwife accused of consorting with the devil. Can she escape the hangman’s noose?

From his father’s beatings to his uncle’s raging sermons, the orphaned John Sharpe is beset by bad fortune. Fighting through personal tragedy, he finds his purpose: to become a witchfinder and save innocents from the scourge of witchcraft.

Jane Chandler is an apprentice midwife. From childhood, she has used herbs to heal poor women and children. But Jane’s life is at risk when Puritan lawmakers hire John Sharpe to cleanse the town of witches.

When Jane visits the apothecary to trade herbs, she finds herself accused of witchcraft. On trial for her life, can she prove her innocence and escape the hangman’s noose?

In an English town gripped by superstition and fear, two destinies collide in the first of three historical novels about real witch trials in the north east of England.

Inspired by the little-known seventeenth-century Newcastle witch trials where thirty people were put on trial for witchcraft. Twenty-seven accused witches were found guilty, and fifteen women and one man were executed on 21 August, 1650.

Recommended for anyone interested in historical novels about real witches, witchfinders and witch trials.

Review by the Historical Novel Society

Inspired by the Newcastle witch trials of 1650, this is the parallel story of two people on a collision course towards disaster. One is Scottish witch-finder, John Sharpe. The other is English Jane Chandler, healer and midwife. We follow their lives from youth to maturity, in John’s case from birth, when he was ironically ‘saved’ from certain death by a midwife who he later is certain is a witch. Brought up first by a cruel father and then a bigoted priest, it is inevitable that he learns the witch-finder craft, which is nothing more than misogynistic trickery.

This was a difficult novel to read at times because of its cruelty, but compelling none the less. Impeccably written, full of herbal lore and the clash of ignorance and prejudice against common sense, as well as the abounding beauty of nature, it made for a great read. There are plenty of books, both fact and fiction, available about the witch-trial era, but not only did I not know about such trials in Newcastle, I have not read a novel that so painstakingly and vividly evokes both the fear and joy of living at that time.

Sally Zigmond

A young woman faces a witchfinder. Dark purple silhouettes on a flesh-coloured background.A young woman faces a witchfinder. Dark purple silhouettes on a flesh-coloured background.