Willow and Amber were thrilled when Widdershins and Sunwise, the second book in the series arrived on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf, courtesy of Random Things Tours. They knew the stories were written with love and attention when they unwrapped the package to discover the books came with a corn dolly for fertility, and lavender and tea to aid sleep.
Scroll down to see if they were right.
Book Review: Widdershins by Helen Steadman
Author: Helen Steadman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Witchlit
Release Date: 8th April 2022
‘DID ALL WOMEN HAVE SOMETHING OF THE WITCH ABOUT THEM?’
England, 1649. A sadistic witch hunter. An apprentice healer accused of witchcraft. Can she escape the hangman’s noose?
When John’s parents die at the hands of a witch, he faces a choice: an easy life with a woman who serves Satan, or a hard life with a preacher who serves God. The cursed orphan chooses the church. Raised on raging sermons, he discovers his true purpose: to become a witchfinder and save virtuous souls from the jaws of hell.
In a town mesmerized by superstition and fear, two destinies collide. As John rounds up t
he local witches, Jane gets more than she bargained for when bartering with the apothecary. Instead of trading herbal remedies, she finds herself on trial for consorting with the devil. Can she prove her innocence, or will she be condemned to death?
If you like historical novels based on real witch trials, you’ll love Helen Steadman’s Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise. Recommended for fans of The Familiars, Tidelands and The Witchfinder’s Sister.
Thoughts from the Emporium
What a fabulous read! History plays an important role in the witches’ lives yet to their shame neither had heard about the Newcastle witch trials which this series covers. Beautifully written with intricate details masterfully blended into each scene, this novel immersed both Willow and Amber into the 17th century. It allowed them to breathe in the aromas of the herbs, choke on the stench of disease, hear nature and the hubbub of village life, and experience the culture of the time. For part they enjoyed walking side by side with Jane learning the ways herbs were used and how they were integrated in society, but the sense of danger and the tightrope knowledgeable women walked was terrifying.
Glimpsing into the life of John made an emotional impact that surprised them. Despite knowing the horrors he’d commit, they pitied the boy he was and understood the reasons how he came to change his stance when strict fanatic puritan views were rife. The hatred and twisted views after radicalisation were harder to forgive as was the societal change taking power away from women during birth to those of male medics. The impacts of these can still be seen today.
The collision of Jane and John’s lives horrified the witches and were grateful those times have passed but the fear lives on. They are eager to read Sunwise to find out more.
Helen Steadman is a wonderful storyteller and makes historical fiction accessible where in other hands, it could have been heavy with too many facts and no soul. She tapped into the characters and era and made them come alive. This is witchy historical fiction at its best and on par with Barbara Erskine. The Enchanted Emporium is proud to have theses books in its collection and the witches are now hoping Helen Steadman will wander down Black Cat Alley for a Monday Merry Meet. Willow suspects they have much to discuss. Watch this space!
Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the seventeenth-century Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who defected from Solingen, Germany in 1687. Helen’s fourth novel is God of Fire, a Greek myth retelling about Hephaestus, possibly the least well-known of the Olympians. Helen is now working on her fifth novel.
Despite the Newcastle witch trials being one of the largest mass executions of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made
herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.
The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who defected from Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material and she published her findings in the Northern History