(Newcastle Witch Trials: Book 1)

Discover a world of folklore and superstition in Helen Steadman's Widdershins.
In a small English town, two destinies collide when vengeful witchfinder John Sharpe and innocent midwife Jane Chandler come face-to-face in a battle between good and evil.
After being accused of witchcraft, Jane must prove her innocence to avoid the hangman’s noose. Can she convince the judge she is not a witch and save her life?
Book 1 of The Newcastle Witch Trials Trilogy is an inspiring story of courage and resilience. Based on the little-known seventeenth-century witch hunt where fifteen women and one man were hanged as witches on a single day in August 1650.

©Helen Steadman, 2017

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.