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The Vanishing Witch Hardcover – 14 Aug 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review (14 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1472215001
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472215000
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 518,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Passion and peril. A compelling blend of historical grit and supernatural twists (Dail Mail on The Falcons of Fire and Ice)

Glorious ... a thrillingly horrible vision of the Dark Ages (Metro on The Owl Killers)

Bawdy and brutal (Simon Mayo on The Gallows Curse)

Scarily good. Imagine The Wicker Man crossed with The Birds (Marie Claire on The Owl Killers)

Combines the storytelling traditions of The Canterbury Tales with the supernatural suspense of Mosse's Sepulchre in this atmospheric tale of treachery and magic (Marie Claire on Company of Liars)

Teeming, invigorating (Guardian on The Falcons of Fire and Ice)

A ripping tale ... full of colour and detail (Daily Telegraph on The Gallows Curse)

A richly evocative page-turner which brings to life a lost and terrible period of British history, with a disturbing final twist worthy of a master of the spine-tingler such as Henry James (Daily Express on Company of Liars)

Book Description

The critically acclaimed Queen of the Dark Ages introduces a chilling novel set against the backdrop of the Peasants' Revolt.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 July 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel takes us from September 1380 to September 1381 and takes place mainly around the city of Lincoln. The main plot revolves around respected wool merchant, Robert of Bassingham, married to Edith and with two sons, Jan and Adam. When Robert is approached by wealthy widow, Catlin, he is flattered and happy to help give her advice. Before long, Catlin has wormed her way into Robert’s affections and into his household, although Edith’s maid Beata is suspicious of her motives and Jan feels he is making a fool of himself with the younger woman.

A side story concerns river boatman Gunter, who lives with his beloved wife and children in a small village outside of the city. Work is hard to find and the family live in poverty, but their troubles are about to be increased with the new poll tax. This was a tax to be paid for every person in a household over the age of fifteen and, not trusting those paying to declare everyone in their family, Commissioners would visit and carry out intrusive and crude investigations into the age of children living there which caused outrage among the people already struggling to pay. As Gunter works for Robert and lives in a cottage owned by him, their stories interact throughout the novel.

I have read, and enjoyed, all of Karen Maitland’s novels and this is certainly one of her best. Anyone familiar with her books will know that there is often a magical element to her stories and this is the case in this one too. With tales of ghosts, sorcery and witchcraft, this is a tale of murder and magic. From the beginning, we doubt the motives of Caitlin and her children – the arrogant Edward and the sinister Leonia – and her designs on Robert and his family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Starrylight on 1 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Set from September AD 1380 until September AD 1381 this book by Karen Maitland tells the story of the Peasants' Revolt (or the Great Rising which occured from 30 May - November 1381) during the reign of King Richard II.
The Government of King Richard II was mainly directed by his uncles of which John of Gaunt was the most prominent one due to the fact that he was at that time Regent of England until Richard II would become of age to rule the KIngdom by himself.
Taking into account that the common people are becoming poorer all the time and that landowners are filling their pockets to such a extent that it will become unavoidable at some point that a revolt will be finally unleashed with catastrophic results.
This book tells the story of the Peasants' Revolt in a most thrilling way, it pictures this time of history in a really splendid fashion of what fear, suspicion, suppression and anger can do to people, so much so that a whole society of Peasants finally stands up against the constitution and ultimately a battlefield will be formed between Peasants and Aristocrats.
And so when superstition starts spreading and when unnatural deaths are occurring, it's all too obvious to spy witchcraft at every turn and to suspect people at every place.
The story is really very exciting and entertaining about these turbulent times of English history, where country, King and his people are in a lot of turmoil and fighting with each other, in a world where survival is everything.
Recommended, because this author deserves really so much more credit and recognition, and this book alone is really "Bewitchingly Beautiful"!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I’ve really enjoyed Karen Maitland’s previous novels in which she combined historical and magical storylines to brilliant effect.

The Vanishing Witch is set in fourteenth century Lincoln and centres around wool-merchant Robert Bassingham. When we meet Robert he’s married to childhood sweetheart Edith, but it’s fair to say their marriage is not all wine and roses. His elder son Jan works as a steward in the family business, and younger son Adam has plans to pursue a more intellectual career, much to his father’s disdain. Robert is swept off his feet when he meet widow Caitlin, who inveigles her way into his life and sets it on a course of death and destruction.

As often happens in Maitland’s novels, some of the more minor characters are the most interesting and sympathetic . The Bassingham family’s servants Beata and Tenney have a touching relationship and local riverman (and Robert’s tenant) Gunter struggles to earn a living in the face of rising taxes imposed by Robert at the behest of Richard II. This leads us to a sub-plot featuring the Peasant’s Revolt, which I personally would have liked to have seen explored in a bit more depth.

It’s a dark and bawdy historical tale and I enjoyed it a lot, though it’s not my favourite Maitland novel. I think some of the humour found in her earlier books, particularly The Owl Killers, has been missing of late, and I do miss it. However, her trademark storytelling and characterisation are just as strong.
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Format: Paperback
The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland, is a dark tale of treachery and oppression in medieval England. The cast of characters offer well researched glimpses into the unequal lifestyles of the citizens of that time: the wealthy merchant whose comfortable lifestyle is threatened by corruption and revolt; the boatman who cannot escape his life of hunger and squalor however hard he works; the children expected to quietly follow in their parent’s footsteps, learning their trade before they reach their teens; the women who are passed from father to husband, raised to honour and obey however their menfolk choose to behave.

In a time when the shadow of death was very much a part of life superstitions were rampant. Into this mix steps a beautiful and wealthy widow who sets out to bewitch those who will further her cause. Using a ghost as narrator the reader is offered glimpses of the deadly games she plays as she draws families and their members into her web. Utterly ruthless in her quest she destroys any who get in her way.

The story is told effortlessly. Despite being well over six hundred pages long it never dragged. The period detail is impressive, the supernatural elements suitably opaque and spine tingling.

I wanted to be impressed by this book. I enjoy historical fiction, particularly when it involves common folk rather than just the wealthy and powerful. The attention to detail couldn’t be bettered, but the plot development left me cold. Perhaps there were just too many spoilers early on. Having anticipated much of what would happen I was left with few mysteries to solve as the story progressed. I did not find this a satisfying read.

Chapter’s were told from differing points of view but I was unconvinced by their juxtaposition.
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