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The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

The Vanishing Witch (2014)

by Karen Maitland

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1048165,267 (3.86)11



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This book is a real treat! I was hooked in from the very beginning. It takes place during the reign of Richard II, in the years 1380-1381. There are alternating narrators, but not too many, primarily the young attractive widow Mistress Catlin, river boatman Gunter, and a restless spirit who haunts the city streets with his dead pet ferret! When Mistress Catlin catches the attention of wealthy cloth merchant Robert of Bassingham, and bodies start piling up around him, everyone becomes suspect. Throw in a Peasants Revolt and you have some really rockin' times!

The author has a real gift for invoking the time and culture of this period. This is the third book of hers I've read, and I've loved them all. It's just too bad I have to order the books from the U.K.! Though kindle versions are available in the U.S..

The author has really awesome historical notes, and a glossary at the back - the only other thing I would have liked to have seen were a few maps. Not being English, all I knew about Lincoln was that it was in the north. And the only Boston I knew of was the one in Massachusetts, but I figured that wasn't the one being referred to in the book! So a map of England showing the locations of the major cities, and maybe one each of the cities of Lincoln and London at that time too. I'm also reading A Burnable Book right now, and was able to reference it's map of 1385 London, which was helpful. Of course I did minor in Geography in grad school (and work for the Census Bureau for almost 15 years), so I do kinda have a thing for maps! ( )
  catzkc | Mar 23, 2018 |
A very engrossing & engaging story involving witchcraft, superstition, excitement and also intrigue. Centring around mysterious characters and dealing with issues like disenchantment, family dynamics, inheritance and the vast social inequities of the medieval era, this is also a novel about rich characterisation. Worthy of a look and note able for me, as it is the only piece of fiction this year, which is a novel that I've not fallen asleep reading and not failed to be gripped by. Highly recommended ( )
  aadyer | Aug 14, 2017 |
This is the second Karen Maitland book I have read. I have enjoyed both and have just downloaded another. Medieval England with it's background of witches/wise women makes for entertaining reading. Looking forward to starting my 3rd book. ( )
  scot2 | Jul 3, 2016 |
This is the fifth novel I have read by this author who specialises in Medieval historical novels with a fantasy/horror twist. This one is set in Lincoln against the backdrop of the Peasants' Revolt in 1381. The passages dealing with the Revolt are quite interesting and the desperation, expressed in extreme violence, of those rebelling against the iniquitous tax well described. My favourite characters were the waterman Gunter and his family. The main plot, however, concerns the machinations of the witch Catlin and her family, enveigling themselves into the household of a local cloth merchant, Robert of Bassingham. Some sections are told from the point of view of a ghost, with a twist at the end about the identity of that spectre when alive. It's a good read overall, though a bit long at 500 pages. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Mar 7, 2016 |
  johnrid11 | Feb 14, 2016 |
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Haiku summary
Witchcraft in Lincoln,
Riots in London. Who says
History's boring?

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Take one wealthy merchant. Add one charming widow. And one dying wife. The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It's a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones? And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it's time to fight back, it's all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.… (more)

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