Widdershins Reviews

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time and trouble to write a review of Widdershins. It's one of the most generous gifts you can give to any author. I really appreciate all reviews, even the more critical ones, because someone has taken valuable time out of a busy day to provide me with constructive feedback. So thank you everyone!


(Reviews taken from Amazon, Goodreads, the review page of Widdershins and from the kindly bloggers who took part in the Widdershins Blog Tour. I have shortened some reviews for the sake of space, but you will be able to read the full reviews in the places mentioned above).

Widdershins is a dark and wonderful novel, rich in historical details, herbal lore, traditions and superstitions. Steadman's clear-eyed storytelling and colourful period voice give life to a vibrant cast of characters drawn against the backdrop of tragic historical events. A compelling and memorable tale! (Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History of Witches)


Her writing reminds me of Hannah Kent's bestselling novel, Burial Rites, which follows the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Helen's writing has a similar persuasive and empathetic force, weaving together historical fact with modern concerns about the treatment of women. (Helen Marshall, author of Hair Side, Flesh Side)


Infused as it is with aromas of rosemary, fennel and lavender, even the healers herbs do not mask the reek of the injustice that sits at the heart of Widdershins. Powerful and shocking. (Wyl Menmuir, author of The Many, longlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2016)


A compelling tale of two young people whose destinies are intertwined, a witch-hunter and a witch. But is she really a witch? This meticulously researched account of a bigoted man s inhumanity to women in the 17th century will make the modern reader grateful to have been born in an enlightened age. (Mari Griffith, author of The Witch of Eye)


Never before have I read such a heart-breaking and equally fascinating novel... Remarkable writing, crisp and raw to the point of cutting me as I read... the story of the witch hunts will haunt me for some time to come... I'm from Newcastle and had not even heard of these witch trials, but as soon as I'd read this book, I headed down to St Andrew's Church and stood beside the graves of the women buried there. Names were too worn by time to see who lies there, but I shivered with the knowledge of what had happened here in plain sight - somewhere I'd walked past many times... (Susan, The Booktrail)


Helen Steadman is as much a witch in her spellbinding ability to enthral the reader as any of those in the story... a cracking plot... a vivid and dynamic story that transported me back in time... (Linda s Book Bag)


As heart-breaking as it was suspenseful... unexpected... a book I d really recommend. The story will slowly but surely pull you in and not let go until you read the last page (Bookfever)


...The narrative is superbly controlled by a very talented writer, a definite weaver of tales who has brought who has brought to life a chilling story of persecution, superstitious mania and terrifying ineptitude. (Jaffa Reads Too)


A subject ripe for fiction, and Helen Steadman has delivered a truly compelling and thrilling tale... The book is a treasure trove of the cunning woman's knowledge of herbs and healing, birth and death... This is essential reading for anyone with an interest in history particularly the history of the North East of England, the history of medicine, women's history and witchcraft in general... If you are a fan of Beth Underdown's The Witch Finder's Sister then you need to read this book. I would also recommend it to fans of Karen Maitland, Diana Gabaldon, Nicola Cornick and Hannah Kent. (Lisa Reads Books)


...A wonderful scary very atmospheric book which serves as a lesson to all women of today not to be too complacent and trusting and a reminder that some men are just pure evil through and through.(Beady Jan's Books)


There are some twists and surprises in store, but the thing that most captures the attention, is the immense attention to detail. Often the mark of the finer historical novels, 'Widdershins' holds within its pages an immaculate grasp on the history of the 17th century witch trials... (The Cosy Reader)


...I am not usually much of a one for historical fiction, unless it’s about England in the 1970s – but Widdershins had me on a knife edge throughout. It’s expertly plotted and immaculately paced, with more twists and turns than Fat Larry’s pants. The characters are by turns engaging and enraging, and the whole thing really puts you there, in time and place; it’s impossible not to get emotionally caught up and then put through the wringer by the fate of the victims of these show trials, effectively the end result of the clergy subjecting themselves to such unnatural practices as celibacy, which inevitably led to a mass gynophobia, passed onto the gen pop through the medium of fiery sermons. This really is an amazing first novel, astounding and outstanding. Five stars. (Ted Curtis)


I highly recommend this gripping novel. Living in the North East it has a bearing on my surroundings. And history of my beloved home. This book is interesting in more ways than one, in that it's not only a great story, but also a bit of a spooky history lesson too. This novel holds no punches of what it must have been like in days gone by, with regards to child mortality rates,superstitions, and unabashed cruelty towards weaker folks. Also, I live right next to Mutton Clog. In the heart of it you might say. Rarely have I enjoyed a book so much. Thank you Helen Steadman. (Krytonsbeast)


What a brilliant read. As a born and bred Consett lass the local references were entertaining but the knowledge of nature and its bounties and how they were used historically I found truly facinating. Can't wait to read more from this author in the hope that she will regail us with more of her vast local and witchery knowledge. (Maz)


An absolutely brilliant read, keeps your interest as it flits between 2 very different stories and Helens writing keeps your mind ticking over, some great usage of both Scottish and NE vocabulary throughout, a fantastic read, thoroughly recommend it. (Mr B. Peacock)


Very enjoyable read that uses well researched facts and fiction to create an entertaining plot. Gives great insight to the customs and beliefs of the 17th century, with a well paced timeline that comes together to a compelling finish. (JacP)


I enjoyed the book even though it is not normally the kind I read. The story was well written and Helen really brought the characters to life. I would definitely recommend this book. (Mary Chambers)


Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, highly readable and I literally could not put it down. (Denise Hopwood)


...Reading Widdershins is like having a time machine into the past as Helen Steadman completely immerses us in the 17th Century. I could almost smell the herbs in Jane's village and the foul stench of the Tyne as Jane and her mother queued to get through the town wall. I absolutely adored the authenticity of the regional dialect as words that are part of our Northern heritage are used and I realised that sadly so many of them have been lost over time. There really isn't a word out of place in this exceptional book.


Widdershins is an immersive and compelling debut, I was completely transfixed from start to finish. It's a mark of a good book when I am so absorbed that I almost forget to drink my morning cup of tea! Top marks for an exceptional debut that was written for Helen Steadman's master's degree. A recommended read and one I will most definitely read again... (Michelle Ryles)


I knew nothing of the 17th century Newcastle witch trials and, as a 21st century southerner, wasn't familiar with some of the words found here (including the title of the book); but that didn't stop me enjoying this comprehensively researched and powerful novel a great deal. The story is well told, convincing and compelling, and the further I got into it, the harder I found it to put down. There's sadness here but humour too and I'm sure I'll read it again, while looking forward to Helen's next book. (Colin Curtis)


...This story is as heartbreaking as it is suspenseful. I really had no idea what would happen next. Widdershins is a page-turner, especially towards the end of the story. I had a hard time putting the book down because I needed to know how everything would end. Be warned the ending will make you gasp out loud. I loved how unexpected that was.


Overall, Widdershins by Helen Steadman is a book I'd strongky recommend . The story will slowly but surely pull you in and not let you go until you reach the last page. I enjoyed it so very much. Box of tissues recommended. (Sara Naidine Cox)


Historical novels are not really my thing but I really enjoyed this book. Well written and informative. I remember being fascinated as a child by the witch hunts and 'ducking' of witches but I'd never really given much thought to the actual process involved or the sheer horror and unfairness of it all! The author has obviously researched her subject thoroughly and adapted a very real historical situation in to a fantastic work of fiction that had me hooked from the start.

Characters are very 'real' and suffer the same emotions as we do 400 years later. I also learned some local history as I live in the area where the novel is set and loved it when familiar place names kept popping in to the story. I look forward to reading more from this author - I may just be a convert to historical novels! (anythingandeverything)


Thank you Helen for being able to write such a story from so little information. I cant wait for your next book. (jesimmons)


Good read, I live in the area she has based the book on, enjoyed it, thank you. (Billy Bell)


...Harrowing scenes you know existed in reality (pressgang, the House of Correction!) are brought to life on the page through Jane’s narration. I enjoy a story that has this type of ending and I’m still pondering off and on what will happen and what actions might follow. Weaving the facts about the Newcastle witch trials with her imagination, Helen Steadman has created a powerful story that will stay with you a long time after you’ve finished reading. (Shaz Goodwin)


...I thought this was an impressive debut and the author succeeded in conjuring up a believable sense of time and place. Because of the subject matter, an uncomfortable read at times, but a really compelling story. (Cathy, What Cathy Read Next)


...I won't give away any of these details but it sure was a page-turner, especially towards the end of the story. I had a hard time putting the book down because I just needed to know how everything would end. And trust me when I say the end will make you gasp out loud. I loved how unexpected that was. Overall, Widdershins by Helen Steadman is a book I'd really recommend. The story will slowly but surely pull you in and not let go until you read the last page. I enjoyed it so very much! (Stephanie, Bookfever)


Gripping, heartbreaking, insightful, chilling - oh yes - very very chilling. This is one book I won't forget in a hurry. It's based on true facts - the witch trials of Newcastle in the 1650s which were the result of women being persecuted for being women, for giving birth, for taking remedies to soothe pain as they went against God's will apparently...Sharp, raw, visceral language of the day helps cement this in your mind. The aroma of the herbs and the local remedies in the book will scent your tears as they fall... (Thebooktrail)


Widdershins was extremely well-written and the alternating perspectives were distinctive, which is always something I look for when books feature more than one POV. I thought the relationship between Jane and Tom was lovely, and I enjoyed seeing John's progression from a kind young boy to a zealous witch-hunter. Steadman didn't pull any punches and some scenes were hard-hitting but in a way that added to the already brilliant story. A superb debut! (Alex, PaperbackPiano)


The narrative within Widdershins is superbly controlled by a very talented writer, someone who is a definite weaver of tales, and who has brought to perfect life the inner workings of a disturbed mind. A mind which is convinced that, with God on his side, he can do no wrong. Intertwining Jane and John’s story is inspired and gives a disturbing account of how lives can be brought together and changed irrevocably by the sly capriciousness of fate... Based on the true events of the 1650 Newcastle Witch Trials where sixteen petrified souls were taken to a needless death, the author has brought to life a chilling story of persecution, superstitious mania and terrifying ineptitude. (Jo Barton)


Steadman's novel tells a fictionalised version of the witch trial in Newcastle in 1650. It is dually narrated by John Sharpe and Jane Chandler and set in Lanarkshire and Shotley Bridge (north east England) respectively. Amongst the strengths of the story are to offer an explanation of how in that dark part of our history the pressures on a young boy can lead him to a life that he believes is the one God wanted for him. I have read several books about the witch trials trying to understand how such misguided religious mania, or blatant evil, could have took such a grip on people. Most recently Beth Underdown's The Witchfinder's Sister, which is also good reading, but Helen Steadman's novel is stronger, and one of the best I have read on the subject. (Andy Weston)


Widdershins is inspired by actual events but this is no dry retelling of our history. Helen Steadman is as much a witch in her spellbinding ability to enthral the reader as any of those in the story. I’m not usually overly fond of dual narratives but the stories of Jane and John absorbed me entirely and as their lives began to converge my heart genuinely thumped louder. Widdershins is historical fiction at its best, but it’s also a roller coaster read of emotion and thrills too. (Linda Hill)


A bleak and harrowing tale (Melanie)


I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it was a journey of adventure even before I gently tore away the brown paper packaging. The book had a lovely calm feel about it. As I said before its elegant cover draws you in. I would definitely recommend it and my friends would be surprised as historical fiction is really not my favourite. But the way Widdershins is written you don’t feel like your getting fact after fact rammed down your neck. You are merely an ear to a fantastic story. (Kelly, Love Books Group)


Overall, Widdershins is a fantastic novel. You’ll find if you pick it up, you may be best grabbing some snacks for the journey as you’ll not be getting off at any stops until the very end (which I must forewarn  a couple of tissues may come in handy for)! AND get excited for a journey of smells, as whilst I was reading Widdershins, the herbs seeped from the pages  absolutely stunning and tantalising! (Laura Turner, Pageturners Nook)


Anyone drawn to dystopian fiction will enjoy this historical dystopia, based on true events and roughly contemporaneous with Witch-finder General Matthew Hopkins’s notorious campaign of persecution in East Anglia. A real bonus of the book is that the author knows her herbs and folklore, and I enjoyed the references to the medicinal properties of plants. There is also wonderful period detail about country crafts, the village way of life, dialect words, primitive obstetricsall in all, she creates a credible lost rural world, which while never idealised contrasts startlingly with the noise and stench that Jane and her mother Annie encounter on their fatal trip to Newcastle. In summary: an impressive debut. (Margaret Cain, Nudge Book)


This is an emotional and uncomfortable read, which frankly made my feminist blood boil. Inspired by the Newcastle Witch Trials of 1650, it powerfully challenges our lingering stereotypical views of witchcraft. (Lisa Botwright, Optima Magazine)


Widdershins by Helen Steadman is a haunting and tragic historicalfiction debut set in 1650s Newcastle. (Natalie Turner, Foodforbookworms)


...The details are great at evoking the setting, without resorting to info-dumping, and at only 238 pages, the book is easy to get through and satisfying, never boring. Overall, I’m giving this book 4/5 stars as it was an enjoyable read and I felt I learnt a lot about a rarer scene slice of history. I recommend this to fans of historical fiction and especially witches, although be warned, there are some scenes of the witch-hunting nature that made me feel a little squeamish! (Mia, The Cosy Reader)