The Vanishing Witch
Set during the time of the Peasants’ Revolt, this novel expertly weaves different strands and plots together to create a satisfying and fascinating whole. The book is centred around the enigmatic figure of the Widow Catlin, who worms her way into the affections of local wool merchant Robert of Bassingham; she brings along her son and her small innocent-seeming young daughter to join the family.
All is not as it seems, however, and tension quickly mounts. The famous revolt of 1381 plays a vital part, and the reader feels in the thick of it, hearing the screams and smelling the blood and fire as property is destroyed and nobles attacked. The narration switches focus from this family to the servants, Beata and Tenney, and from them to a poor river boatman family, whose son Hankin runs away to join the rebellion. There is also narration from a ghost, which sounds strange but seems to work in this heightened atmosphere of superstition, witchcraft and nefarious plots.
The reader is completely immersed in the medieval world, and the novel is very well researched. At the back there are historical notes, a timeline and a glossary to help with the more obscure medieval terms. It is a very good sign when you really don’t want a novel of nearly 700 pages to end, and I recommend this chunky offering unreservedly. Not to be missed by any lover of medieval fiction, and even better than previous offerings, Company of Liars and The Owl Killers.