Essex, England, 1645. With a heavy heart, Alice Hopkins returns to the small town she grew up in. Widowed, with child, and without prospects, she is forced to find refuge at the house of her younger brother, Matthew. In the five years she has been gone, the boy she knew has become a man of influence and wealth—but more has changed than merely his fortunes. Alice fears that even as the cruel burns of a childhood accident still mark his face, something terrible has scarred Matthew’s soul.
There is a new darkness in the town, too—frightened whispers are stirring in the streets, and Alice’s blood runs cold with dread when she discovers that Matthew is a ruthless hunter of suspected witches. Torn between devotion to her brother and horror at what he’s become, Alice is desperate to intervene—and deathly afraid of the consequences. But as Matthew’s reign of terror spreads, Alice must choose between her safety and her soul.
Alone and surrounded by suspicious eyes, Alice seeks out the fuel firing her brother’s brutal mission—and is drawn into the Hopkins family’s past. There she finds secrets nested within secrets: and at their heart, the poisonous truth. Only by putting her own life and liberty in peril can she defeat this darkest of evils—before more innocent women are forced to the gallows.
Inspired by the real-life story of notorious “Witchfinder General” Matthew Hopkins, Beth Underdown’s thrilling debut novel blends spellbinding history with harrowing storytelling for a truly haunting reading experience.
This book starts off slow as Beth Underdown is gradually introducing you to her book but it becomes a very compelling bit of historical fiction with a beguiling conclusion that more than made up for the beginning. Despite the subject matter this is not a fantasy novel about wicked witches but rather a captivating examination of the oppression of women and how they were treated as second class citizens during the 17the century.
It’s a beautifully written, well researched and entertaining story even if the subject matter isn’t something that will give you the warm fuzzies. There are plenty of twists that will keep you glued to the pages particularly since her characters are complex, full of depth and interesting thanks to Underdown’s well-rounded character development. She created a strong female protagonist encased in a world that is decidedly anti-female which made me very glad I live in the 21st century.
Thanks to Underdown’s descriptive writing I felt as if I was actually there and could picture what everything looked like during this time period. Her research proved itself in the writing making you move up and down the emotional spectrum from intrigued to horrified at what her characters were put through.
I found it to be engaging and a fresh approach to a shameful part of human history. If you’re into historical novels then this deserves a chance.
Thank you to Netgalley and Ballatine Books for allowing me to review this book.
Buy on Amazon: http://a.co/gH8EEoV
*synopsis and pic from amazon.com